Martin St-Louis played more than 500 games under coach John Tortorella, and the current Blue Jackets coach made it clear just how much he appreciated St-Louis as a player during his jersey retirement ceremony on Friday.
John Tortorella’s career behind the bench might have given some the impression that he’s all toughness, all bravado, all the time. But, in his own way, Tortorella showed a softer side on Friday evening as the former Tampa Bay Lightning coach stepped to the podium to say some words about one of his former players, Martin St-Louis.
Tortorella was on hand for the Bolts’ jersey retirement ceremony for St-Louis as it came ahead of a meeting with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and given the opportunity to say a few words about a player he used to coach on one of the most important days of St-Louis’ life, Tortorella sung the potentially Hall of Fame-bound winger’s praises in a big way.
Though it didn’t start off sounding like much of a compliment — with Tortorella critiquing the kind of player St-Louis was as a coach — the overall message was fantastic and an excellent tribute:
Tortorella’s right, too, that St-Louis will likely never leave the history of the game given his unique path to becoming one of the greatest players of his generation. Undrafted, St-Louis made it to the NHL as a free agent, playing his way through the IHL and AHL, getting bought out by the Calgary Flames following the 1999-00 season before landing with the Lightning.
St-Louis’ play really hit its pinnacle in Tampa. In his first campaign, played under Tortorella, he skated middle-six minutes and netted 18 goals and 40 points, saw top-line minutes during his second season and scored 35 points in 53 games, followed by a 70-point campaign and a 94-point season in 2003-04. All of that came under Tortorella’s tutelage.
All told, St-Louis played 500-plus games for the Lightning under Tortorella, scoring 204 goals and 485 points, but most importantly winning a Stanley Cup during the 2003-04 season. St-Louis’ performance during that post-season was the continuation of a fantastic campaign, and he added to his accomplishments with the Lightning by scoring one of the most important goals in franchise history with the Game 6 overtime winner to send the Stanley Cup final to a seventh game.
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