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St. Louis got to Hockey Hall of Fame on desire, attitude, Tortorella says

Former Lightning coach believes going undrafted among setbacks that drove forward

by John Tortorella / Special to NHL.com

John Tortorella played an integral role in Martin St. Louis growing into the player he became in the NHL. Tortorella took over as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning midway through the 2000-01 season, which was also St. Louis' first full season in the NHL. They were together in Tampa Bay through the 2007-08 season. The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, capping St. Louis' best season, when he won the Hart Trophy and the Art Ross Trophy with 94 points (38 goals, 56 assists). Here, Tortorella, the Columbus Blue Jackets coach, shares his thoughts on St. Louis, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, in a special testimonial for NHL.com.

 

What makes Martin St. Louis a Hall of Famer?

The answer seems so simple, right? It's not.

Without question, Marty has all the numbers and accolades to be a Hall of Famer -- the 1,033 points (391 goals, 642 assists) in 1,134 games, the Stanley Cup championship, Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy (twice), Lady Byng Trophy (three times) and Olympic gold medal (2014).

But what makes him a Hall of Famer is not what he accomplished, it's how Marty had to accomplish it. That's his great story. That's the story to tell the undersized kids trying to make it in the NHL or dreaming of one day getting the chance to try to make it.

Marty was never drafted. He had a great college career at the University of Vermont, but that did nothing to convince people he could make it in the NHL at 5-foot-8. He got bounced around in the minor leagues. He was labeled a fourth-line guy, too small.

Except everyone who doubted him forgot about one big thing -- the chip on Marty's shoulder that stretched down to his ankle. He had an attitude that allowed him to just say, "I'm not taking no for an answer."

Marty wouldn't let anyone tell him he can't do something. He wouldn't let anyone tell him he's too small. He wouldn't let anyone break him by sending him to the minors. He wouldn't let the doubters win.

He had a mindset that was relentless, and he still carries that chip around on his shoulder to this day. He still walks around with that attitude. It defines him.

Coaching Marty was challenging at times because he pushed you as a coach. Frankly, he was a pain in the butt. He asked a lot and if he didn't get the right answers or if he thought he needed more information he'd keep on asking.

There were days coaching Marty when you just had to say, "Would you just leave me alone already." That's no lie. It happened, and you can imagine those weren't the exact words used either. It was, shall we say, far more graphic, but Marty didn't care.

Marty not only made himself a great player, he made other people around him great, whether it be coaching staff, teammates, trainers, whoever. He'd certainly rub you the wrong way at certain times, but he pulled you along too.

If practice wasn't going well or he didn't think you were practicing well, he'd pull you along not so much by yelling at you and pushing, but just the way he did it. And the way he did it couldn't help but rub off on everyone else because he was such an underdog and he still rose.

Think about how he had to do it in the Stanley Cup Final in 2004. That series between the Lightning and Calgary Flames was the last time the NHL game was played that way. It was pre-lockout, pre-rule changes.

The Eastern Conference Final against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Cup Final against Calgary were just brutal series, absolute wars, and Marty had to play through that stuff. He had to play through the hacking and whacking. He did it. He played so well too.

That he did had nothing to do with pushing a button to figure it out, nothing to do with analytics or anything like that. It's about the mental state of mind, and that's what he had, that's what hardened him early and kept him rising in the NHL through his career.

So talk about all the accomplishments and now the Hall of Fame all you want, but the greatest story was Marty's journey. That's what people need to know. That's Hall of Fame to me and it was an honor have been a witness to it for a few years, to watch how a mindset takes over and an absolute attitude of telling everyone to shut up by telling them, "You're not going to stop me."

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