The night the Rangers captured the Prince of Wales Trophy and eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in Game Six of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final I was lingering in the home team's dressing room at Madison Square Garden, looking for yet another Blueshirt to interview about the team heading to the Stanley Cup Final.
Across the room Martin St. Louis had already been besieged by wave after wave of reporters and camera people and obliged them all, answering each and every question, including mine. Now with the dressing room nearly empty, St. Louis slowly walked across the room, heading out finally for a shower and to meet with his family.
Marty approached me on his way out, and I shook his hand, congratulating him on getting the opportunity to play for a second Stanley Cup championship, this one mere weeks after the saddest day in his life--the passing of his mother, France.
"Congratulations to you," Marty said looking me straight in the eye. "You've been here a lot longer than me. You deserve this, too. Enjoy tonight, and enjoy the run. I'm happy for you."
His personal contact with those of us lucky enough to work for the New York Rangers organization had been less than three months at that point, but yet he recognized and respected that this was a big deal for everyone in the franchise, even the reporter for the team's web site.
The Rangers did not win the Stanley Cup that spring, of course, but I will never forget that moment with Marty St. Louis.
I could recount Marty's big moments while playing for the Rangers--none bigger than his overtime game winner against the Canadiens in Game Four of that same conference final two seasons ago at MSG--but as I reflect on his 14-15 months in New York I find myself thinking more about behind the scenes snippets like the one I shared above. To me those are the things that stand out most.
So often there was that Marty smile. He loved being a hockey player and a teammate. Thoroughly enjoyed his time playing cards with the boys, telling stories, sharing a laugh.
And those teammates revered him, make no mistake. When Marty made an impassioned speech in the locker room, or offered counsel on ice during a practice, his teammates were all ears. I can not emphasize enough how much the players respected Marty St. Louis.
His intensity and passion for the game was boundless, as was his pursuit of excellence on the ice. Though only in New York for parts of two seasons, Martin St. Louis left an example for the current Rangers to follow in their journey ahead.
There, of course, was also the lasting image of Marty riding the stationary bike outside the team's dressing room at CONSOL Energy Center before Game Five of the 2014 Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Penguins. His mother had just passed away, and he had immediately returned home to Montreal to be with his father and family.
No one expected St. Louis to return to Pittsburgh to play in Game Five, yet there he was long before any of his teammates had arrived at the arena preparing to play a must-win game for his new team, with the Rangers trailing that best of seven 3-1.
When the Rangers arrived there were hugs of support from Marty's teammates; but what struck me even more is how many Penguins players came by to shake his hand or offer a hug or a word.
That is called respect; and it's a powerful memory even from Marty's darkest time.
I feel fortunate to have gained this insight into one of the NHL's best and most exciting players over the past 15 or so years.
Best of luck to Martin St. Louis, who now embarks on his new gerat passion: coaching his sons.
Enjoy it Marty.