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Martin St. Louis was mentor, friend to Steven Stamkos

Tampa Bay captain inspired by predecessor, whose number is being retired Friday

by Corey Long / NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA -- To Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, "heart and soul" are the words that will be forever attached to Martin St. Louis.

Stamkos, who became captain after St. Louis was traded to the New York Rangers on March 5, 2014, said St. Louis' competitive nature and attitude provided the ultimate example he needed to follow as an 18-year-old coming into the NHL.

It was a perfect situation for me to see the work ethic, the dedication, the desire, the mentality he has every time he stepped on the ice for a game day," said Stamkos, who's recovering from knee surgery in November. "There were a lot of fun times in between for sure, but he knew when to dial it in."

St. Louis will be the first member of the Lightning to have his number retired. The ceremony will take place before the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Amalie Arena on Friday (8 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, SUN, FS-O, NHL.TV).

Stamkos is among those scheduled to speak at the event, joining former Lightning players Vincent Lecavalier, Fredrik Modin and Dave Andreychuk, all members of Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup team. Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, who coached the Lightning from 2000-08, also will speak.

 

Get it: Martin St. Louis Retirement T-Shirt

 

"Marty is a pretty sentimental and emotional guy, so for him it's something that's extremely exciting and humbling," Stamkos said. "I know Marty wasn't always the face of the franchise or the guy that everyone talked about, because there were so many other great players around him at the same time. But when you get singled out like that, to have your number retired in any organization is special, whether you're the first or 100th guy. But to be the first, it's very special."

The Lightning's celebration of St. Louis has been a two-day event. He, along with Lecavalier and Andreychuk, answered questions about his career and their time together in a special session with season-ticket holders.

St. Louis also took part in a ceremonial faceoff before the Lightning's 4-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, and visited a local elementary school Friday, when he and former Lightning defenseman Jassen Cullimore played street hockey with the students.

Tweet from @therealjfeaster: How cool is this...playing street hockey w/@mstlouis_26? Lots of smiles and happy faces this morning! Thanks @mstlouis_26! pic.twitter.com/j7QQrMcGcs

Defenseman Victor Hedman said St. Louis' competitive spirit remains a major part of the locker room and in the organization.

"No one wanted to be out there competing more than Marty," Hedman said. "He worked so hard, he practiced hard because he wanted to win so much. He made you want to be better and work harder and play at the level he played at."

Stamkos said St. Louis' work ethic always will be an inspiration to him and anyone that has ever played with him.

"For me he was that, he is that and he will always be that for this organization," Stamkos said. "That's something no one can ever take away and that's something that when Marty looks in the mirror he can be very proud of."

Video: BUF@TBL: St. Louis and his sons drop ceremonial puck

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