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By retiring, does Marty St. Louis become ours again?

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Is he ours again?

In memory, is Marty St. Louis a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning forever?

Oh, he was barely a Ranger. He played there two years, and yes, he made the playoffs both times. But the legacy hardly dents what it was with the Tampa Bay Lightning when he was here.

So he is one of us again?

Or in walking away, did St. Louis close that door forever?

It is an interesting question now that the NHL closed its books on St. Louis. St. Louis, arguably the finest player in the history of the Lightning, announced his retirement after 16 seasons and 391 goals. He played in more than 1,000 NHL games and scored more than 1,000 points.

Most of it, of course, was here, in the colors of the Lightning. Now that he is walking away, the question burns: Will the warmth return to the memory of St. Louis? Or will he forever be the guy who pouted his way out of town, the guy who didn’t care enough about his legacy when it was still present-tense.

For St. Louis, it ended with a disastrous post-season against his former team as the New York Rangers lost to the Lightning. It had been reported that the Rangers would not welcome back St. Louis for another year.

In all, St. Louis scored 952 of his points here. He scored only 22 goals after leaving Tampa Bay. One can only imagine the emotions he would have touched if he had stayed.

St. Lous was named to seven NHL All-Star games. He earned All-NHL first-team honors once and second team four times.

“I have been blessed to play for 16 years in the NHL; it has been an amazing ride,” said St. Louis.  “I would like to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers organizations and owners for providing me the opportunity to play the sport I love for so many years.

“I’m thankful to all of the fans who have supported me through the years; it has meant so much to me. I have dedicated my life to being the best player I could be and now want to turn more of my focus to my three boys.  I look forward to this next chapter of my life and the time I will have with my family.”

St. Louis, who started his NHL career as an undrafted free agent with the Calgary Flames in 1998, had his best year in 2003-04, leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup, while leading the NHL with 94 points in 82 games to win the Art Ross Trophy. He also won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player, and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the National Hockey League Players Association’s Most Outstanding Player that same season.

St. Louis won two Art Ross Trophies as the league’s leading scorer (2003-04 and 2012-13) and he won three Lady Byng Memorial Trophies (2009-10, 2010-11, 2012-13) for his “sportsmanship and gentlemanly play combined with a high standard of playing ability.” He also led the league in assists in 2003-04 (56) and 2012-13 (43 in 48 games played).

Internationally, St. Louis was a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2014 Winter Games.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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