Calling it the "easiest tough decision" he's ever had to make, a tanned and well-rested Martin St. Louis met with reporters Monday afternoon at the MSG Training Center to discuss his retirement as a professional hockey player after 16 seasons in the National Hockey League.
"It wasn't one specific event or thing...I just felt like it was time," explained St. Louis, who also stressed that he's looking forward to spending more time at home with his wife and three sons and that he plans on coaching his boys in hockey.
"They're getting to an age right now where I've been missing a lot of their stuff, and that time you can't get back. That played a huge part in my decision."
St. Louis added, "My whole family has been so supportive of me and it's been all about me a lot. Now it's time for it to be about someone other than me. My wife will be happy to have another full-time parent alongside her. The focus is on my kids, and I am excited about that."
The 40 year-old St. Louis told reporters that his decision to retire did not hinge on the fact that he scored only one goal during the Rangers playoff run this past spring, one that took him and the team to one victory of a second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final. And he added that he completely understood the Rangers salary cap situation and the difficulty the team had in fitting him into it.
Though there were free agent offers from other teams on July 1, St. Louis admitted that "my heart wasn't in it" and that he realized it was "time to be 100 percent a dad."
"I can sit here and be proud that my last year I scored 21 goals and the year before I scored 30, so do I think I can still play? Yeah," offered St. Louis. "But it's time to move on and do something else."
Undrafted after a standout four-year career at the University of Vermont, St. Louis broke into the league as a free agent with the Calgary Flames in 1998-99 before hitting his stride as a pro with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2000-01 until he was traded to New York at the deadline in 2014.
With the Lightning St. Louis won a pair of Art Ross Trophies as the NHL's top scorer, the 2003-04 Hart Trophy as league MVP, and three Lady Byng Trophies. In the spring of 2004 he also helped lead the Lightning to the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship, scoring 24 points in 23 playoff games.
St. Louis thanked the Lightning organization for believing in him and fostering his game, and also spoke glowingly of the parts of two seasons he spent on Broadway as a Ranger, emphasizing that he always wanted to end his career in New York.
"Playing here in New York City at Madison Square Garden, those playoff runs we had both years, my teammates were unbelievable, the organization was great," explained St. Louis. "I went through so much in such a short amount of time with this group--obviously looking back to last year with my Mom (passing away) and that playoff run and coming close to winning the Cup twice. I know I only played parts of two years here, but it feels like it's at least five (years) because all that has happened."
St. Louis appeared in 93 regular season games with the Rangers and another 44 in the playoffs. He totaled 22 goals and 60 points in the regular season and another nine goals and 22 points in the post-season while wearing the Blueshirt--including his Game Four overtime winner against the Montreal Canadiens in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final at The Garden, a moment he called a career highlight on Monday.
As for how he thinks the Rangers will fair without him moving forward, St. Louis was confident New York will remain a serious Cup contender.
"I think this team is in great shape," declared St. Louis. "First and foremost you have Henrik Lundqvist in net; and you have great defensemen. I have always felt that to have success in this league you build from the back end out, and this team is built for that, and built for a long playoff run. You have a strong core group here."
Along with coaching his children, St. Louis said he plans on playing plenty of golf, and is learning how to fish with his boys. He also plans on still living in Connecticut, and will decide down the road what his long-term post-playing career goals are.
One thing he may have to plan for in the not too distant future would seem to be an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. St. Louis finished his career with 391 goals, 642 assists, and 1,033 points over 1,134 games played to go along with six All Star Game appearances, an Olympic Gold Medal and plenty of plenty of personal awards and milestones, not he least of which was his 2004 Stanley Cup.
"Everything I have done, there's nothing else I can do about that now," St. Louis said of his Hall of Fame candidacy. "People can analyze my career any which way they want. For me, I am proud of how I played in my career--how I came in and how I am leaving. Of course for anyone who's played a long time in this league of course (the Hall of Fame) is the ultimate prize individually, and for sure it's something that would be a big moment for me and my family."
"At the end of the day, though, I am most proud of having been a good teammate."