On Tuesday night, when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Los Angeles Kings, only three players involved will have played more than 900 career NHL games. Robyn Regehr and Eric Brewer will be two of the graybeards on the Staples Center ice, but another will be celebrating an achievement many thought would never come.
Lightning captain Martin St. Louis will play in his 1,000th game Tuesday. That's 1,000 more than most imagined he would after graduating from the University of Vermont and watching the NHL offers never materialize.
St. Louis' story checks off every box of the traditional hockey underdog.
Forced to play in minors to get attention? Check.
Flourish elsewhere after getting cut from first professional team? Check.
After two seasons in Calgary, with four goals and 20 points in 69 games, he was bought out and once again left to fight for his place in the hockey world. He was given the chance with the Lightning in 2000 and the rest is history; a history that will likely be documented on a plaque to hang in an old bank building on Yonge Street in Toronto one day.
In honor of St. Louis' 1,000 games, here are 10 of his greatest achievements:
1996 NCAA tournament run with Vermont
In 1996, St. Louis and teammate Eric Perrin would share the NCAA scoring title with a school-record 85 points. In his first season as captain of the Catamounts, he would help them win the first ECAC championship in school history and lead them to a berth in the Frozen Four. Of course, it was St. Louis who scored both goals during a 2-1 win over Lake Superior State to earn that berth.
2004 World Cup
Scoring two goals and four points, including a goal and an assist during a 2-1 win over the U.S. in the first game of the tournament, St. Louis helped Canada win the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. He would later play all six games for Canada at the 2006 Torino Olympics and add back-to-back silver medals at the 2008 and 2009 World Champions.
Small in stature, large in game
At 5-foot-8, 180 lbs., St. Louis had to use his size to his advantage at the NHL level. He'd been productive in college and in the minors, but his speed and skill eventually helped cement him a place in the NHL and become of the league's best players for over a decade. No wonder he wears No. 26 in honor of Mats Naslund.
St. Louis keeps himself in great shape -- check out those quads! -- so it's no surprise that since the 2002-03 season he's missed only seven games.
2004 Hart Trophy
It wasn’t even his best statistical season (43 goal, 102 points in 2006-07), but St. Louis ended the 2003-04 regular season with 38 goals and 94 points to not only win his first scoring title, but also take home NHL MVP honors, beating out Martin Brodeur and Jarome Iginla. Winning the award would put St. Louis in exclusive company because…
2004 Stanley Cup
…days before winning the MVP, he became the first player since Wayne Gretzky in 1987 to win both the Hart Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same season. The Lightning would defeat the Calgary Flames in seven games for the franchise’s first title and St. Louis would finish with 24 points, two behind Conn Smythe trophy winner Brad Richards.
Forcing Game 7
That championship would have never come without St. Louis’ heroics 33 seconds into double overtime of Game 6:
The shootout spin-o-rama
When the shootout is finally ridden from the NHL, we'll look back at St. Louis' creative attempts to the make the game-deciding venture fun:
Oldest Art Ross Trophy winner
While the scoring race was likely going to end up in the hands of Sidney Crosby, an injury to the Pittsburgh Penguins captain opened the door for St. Louis to become the oldest Art Ross Trophy winner in NHL history at age 37. In the 14 games after Crosby’s regular season ended, St. Louis scored 9 goals and 17 points to finish with 60, beating out teammate Steven Stamkos by three points. The nine years between Art Ross wins is also an NHL record.
1,000 games, undrafted
Entering tonight: 348 goals, 932 point, Hart Trophy, a Pearson Award, two Art Ross Trophies, three Lady Byngs, a Stanley Cup, 68 points in 63 career playoff games, six All-Star Games, and one day the Hockey Hall of Fame.