Number retirement debates are usually best left to the fan bases that are celebrating the player. Let’s just get that out of the way.
But we can’t help but wonder if it strikes Tampa Bay Lightning fans a little odd that Martin St. Louis – of the acrimonious trade demand that led him to the New York Rangers in March 2014 – is the first player in franchise history to get his number retired.
Especially when the other members of that troika of Lightning stars – Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards – both retired this offseason.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will retire the number 26 worn by the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, Martin St. Louis, Chairman and Governor Jeff Vinik announced today. St. Louis, who becomes the first player in the history of the Lightning organization to have his jersey retired, played 972 games over 13 seasons with the team, tallying 365 goals and 588 assists for 953 points. He will be honored on Friday, January 13, 2017, when the Lightning host John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets at AMALIE Arena.
“Everyone in the organization is excited to celebrate and thank Marty for his immense long-term contributions to the Lightning’s past successes and the Tampa Bay community,” said Vinik upon making the announcement. “As Marty enters his second year in retirement from the game, we believe this season is the time to hang his number from the rafters at AMALIE Arena.
“Marty had a terrific career in Tampa Bay, making six All-Star appearances while setting numerous team records, all highlighted of course by the Stanley Cup win in 2004. We look forward to a wonderful retirement ceremony, recognizing him for all that he accomplished as a member of the Lightning.”
St. Louis, signed by the Lightning as a free agent on July 31, 2000, currently ranks first in team history for points (953), assists (588), short-handed goals (28), game winning goals (64), hat tricks (8 – tied with Steven Stamkos), and power play points (300). He also ranks second in goals scored with 365, behind Vincent Lecavalier’s 383 goals, and also second for games played with 972.
“To have my number retired by the Lightning is a tremendous honor and I’d like to thank Jeff Vinik and everyone in the organization for recognizing me this way,” said St. Louis. “I have many great memories in Tampa Bay, including our great Stanley Cup win, and this night will be extremely special and emotional for my family and me.
“I am happy I will get to share the evening with all the Lightning fans who have always supported me throughout my career – Tampa Bay will always feel like home to me. Additionally, I recognize that none of this would have been possible without the help of many great teammates, trainers, and coaches and I thank them.”
(Could have used a little Yzerman in that press release…)
Look, there’s no question he deserves it. And maybe the jeers he heard as a member of the Rangers were all Lightning fans needed to find some level of catharsis. As an outsider, it strikes one as awkward to see a player whose legacy was forever altered by that trade demand get the first banner in the rafters.
But maybe this is how all parties heal the rift.
Just one request: That the Lightning make all subsequent banners significantly larger than St. Louis’s, not only for a great sight gag but to make it to scale.
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