GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Martin St. Louis expects to miss being around the guys in the dressing room, being one of them. He can see his future, watching a New York Rangers game this season, thinking he can do it better, that he should still be on the ice because he definitely can still play. He's confident it will happen during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Coming to grips with those feelings of expectation and anticipation wasn't difficult for St. Louis; he came to grips with his decision to retire from the NHL, a decision he made official July 2 in a press release distributed by the Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
"It was the easiest tough decision to make," St. Louis said Monday in his first public remarks since he announced his retirement.
It was because at 40 years old St. Louis said his heart wasn't in it anymore. He didn't want to go through another summer of training to get ready for what would have been his 17th season in the NHL.
St. Louis said he and his agent fielded some contract offers July 1, but he wasn't prepared to sign anywhere because he wasn't prepared to play again. He said he thinks the Rangers would have come through with a contract offer if he was committed.
"There are just things that come into play; for definitely it was my family, my kids," St. Louis said. "I just felt it was time. They're getting of age right now where I'm missing a lot of their stuff, and that time you can't get back. That played a huge part in my decision."
St. Louis went from being an undrafted player who was cut from his training-camp tryout with the Ottawa Senators in 1997 to a player who won the Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold medal, the Hart Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy twice and the Lady Byng Trophy three times. He finished his career with 391 goals, 642 assists and 1,033 points in 1,134 games.
He is the Lightning's all-time leader in assists (588), points (953), shorthanded goals (28), game-winning goals (64) and overtime goals (10). He is second in games played (972) and goals (365) behind Vincent Lecavalier. St. Louis is also Tampa Bay's all-time leader in Stanley Cup Playoff goals (33), assists (35) and points (68).
The Hall of Fame could and probably should be calling in three years, when he becomes eligible for induction.
"I don't think anybody is going to sit up here and say, 'Yes, I'm a Hall of Famer,'" St. Louis said. "Everything that I've done right now, I can't do anything else about it. People are going to analyze my career any which way they want. For me, I'm proud of how I played this game, how I came in and how I'm leaving. Whatever that gets me, if that gets me in the Hall of Fame, that's out of my control. I'm proud of the way I came in and I'm proud of the way I'm leaving, the rest is not up to me."
St. Louis talked Monday as a former player who left the game with no regrets.
"I was just a kid living his dream," St. Louis said. "It would sound pretty greedy to say I would want this or that more."
He said Tampa will always be a special place to him because it's where he grew up as a player, where he found people such as Jay Feaster, Rick Dudley and John Tortorella, people who finally believed in him.
St. Louis played for the Lightning from the start of the 2000-01 season until he was traded to the Rangers on March 5, 2014.
"Everybody needs somebody to believe in them and help them along the way, and I had that and I think it allowed me to play a long time," St. Louis said. "I never felt that something was given to me. I felt I earned everything I got in this league. But people have to help you along the way."
St. Louis said the move to New York was perfect for him. His family had already settled in Greenwich, Conn. That's where they will stay.
"I'm happy I got to experience something else," St. Louis said. "You play your whole career somewhere, you don't know what it's like anywhere else. For me, I always felt like I wanted to finish my career in New York, so to be able to do that, it's exactly how I wanted it."
St. Louis is proud that at 5-foot-8 he was an influence for smaller players trying to make it in the NHL in the way that former players such as Theo Fleury, Cliff Ronning and Mats Naslund were for him.
"I know a lot of shorter guys around the League, I get a chance to meet them, and yeah, I was probably their idol at one point, but they're going to be somebody else's idol at some point," St. Louis said. "That's the beauty of the game. The wheel keeps turning. Guys are leaving, guys are coming in, and you're trying to affect the game and leave your mark as you go through. I think I've done that."
Now it's time to try to leave his mark elsewhere, like at home, as a dad to Ryan, Lucas and Mason. St. Louis' next challenge in hockey will be coaching his boys, being at every practice and every game, things he would not be able to do if he was still a player.
There may be a future for him in the NHL in another capacity, but St. Louis said he doesn't know yet and he isn't going to rush into anything.
"It's time for it to be about somebody else than me, and that's my kids," St. Louis said. "I think things will become a little clearer what I want to do next in the next year."
In the meantime, he'll be watching from his couch, wondering if he could do it better. It might be tough at times, but the stress, exhilaration and enjoyment he got from playing in the NHL will be replaced by coaching his kids, helping them with their homework, driving them around, and just being a regular hockey dad in a suburban community.
"I feel if I do something I'm going to be 100 percent committed," St. Louis said. "Right now, it's time to be 100 percent dad."