Throughout the season, tampabaylightning.com will periodically talk to Lightning players or coaches to get their first-hand account of a critical moment from the season or just what's on their mind currently.
In this installment, we hear from Hockey Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis, who is in Tampa tonight for the Lightning's home contest against the Florida Panthers as part of Martin St. Louis Night at AMALIE Arena in honor of the former Bolts' captain.
The list of St. Louis' accomplishments while wearing a Lightning sweater are overwhelming. He's the all-time franchise scoring leader (953 pts.) and ranks first in the organization for assists (588), power-play points (300), shorthanded goals (28) and game-winning goals (64). St. Louis won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's MVP in 2004. He was a two-time Art Ross Trophy winner as the league's top scorer (2004, 2013). He's a three-time winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (2010, 2011, 2013) for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. And he was presented the Lester B. Pearson Award in 2004 for most outstanding player as voted by the NHLPA.
He's a six-time NHL All-Star (most of any Lightning player). He helped lead the Lightning to the only Stanley Cup in the franchise's history (2004) and scored maybe the most important goal in Bolts history with his Game 6 double-overtime winner in Calgary to send the Cup Final back to Tampa, where the Lightning would win hockey's Holy Grail two days later.
And as of November 12, he can call himself a Hockey Hall of Famer.
As told to tampabaylightning.com beat writer Bryan Burns, St. Louis looks back on his accomplishments in Tampa Bay, what it was like delivering his Hall of Fame speech and what it meant to have some of his former Lightning teammates and staff members surprise him at the induction ceremony.
Video: Morning Skate Show | Martin St. Louis
"That night was very emotional as you kind of bottle up everything that led up to that point. It's a long career, not just professionally but youth hockey and the ups and downs and the people in the room that have helped you along the way, the family and friends. I don't think anything prepares you for that night. I was taken by plenty of emotion, and I tried to plow through my speech and keep it together. For the most part I think I did okay. It's tough to thank everyone. You know you're on the clock. I thought if I read it would be easier, but once I got emotional, it was harder to just read. I felt like I wanted to say more. But it worked out.
Being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame is up there on the list of my accomplishments, right up there with the championship we won as a team. I think the Hockey Hall of Fame is the ultimate honor as an individual award to be recognized like that. Kind of sums up all the other awards that you've won. They're all the reason why you're there; the things that you did as a team and individually is usually why you end up in the Hall of Fame. So it kind of sums up your career, which is pretty cool.
The most important thing for me playing this game was not just the game itself but the teammates, the friendships that you make along the way. My teammates were always very important to me. I wanted to be around them. I want to spend time with them. The fact some of my former teammates, staff members, they took time out of their season and their schedule and were there supporting me, it was very important to me. I got a whiff that they'd be possibly coming, but I didn't think they'd be front and center which I think it definitely triggered some emotion for me. It threw me off my speech a little bit. I loved playing. I loved being with my teammates, whether it was back of the bus, back of the plane, dinners. So the fact that they were there, that meant a lot because that has nothing to do with hockey. That's friendship, that's relationships you create with people. To see not just the players but the staff I was with for 14 years, I meant it, it's a game of inches and sometimes you gain those inches with those guys. I know I was high maintenance. But I wasn't high maintenance as like a jerk kind of guy. I was particular with my stuff, and those guys could help me. I can't sew. I couldn't get on a sewing machine. I remember (Lightning head athletic trainer) Tom Mulligan coming to my house because I had a broken foot and I wanted to make sure I could get the swelling down and get in a skate the next day. What people see out on the ice, that's the finished product. There's so much that goes into that, and those guys were a huge part of that.
Video: Bolts attend St.Louis induction ceremony
I think the fact that a lot of Hall of Famers come back for the induction ceremony and are a part of the ceremony, that was the best part of the weekend for me. You look in that room and you're staring at about 40-something Hall of Famers that are taking time from their schedule and they come and are part of the celebration, it makes it special. To me, it's not so much what I did. I'm part of that club now. To me, it's what the other guys have done and now I'm part of that. I can't believe that I'm part of that group. That's what hits me. It's not so much the numbers I put up or the awards I've won, it's the group I'm with right now. The fact that they were there is pretty cool.
It's always fun coming back to Tampa and to celebrate with the Lightning, and I'm happy to be back here for tonight. I think the fans here in Tampa saw me at a very young stage in my career. I grew up here as a player. There were some young fans that are older now. Between the ups and downs, it's always nice to celebrate the great moments.