The year 2002 had just begun and the Tampa Bay Lightning were a team on the rise, largely because of some impressive young talents. Perhaps the most exciting of the bunch was a young man named Martin St. Louis. Un-drafted and recently cast aside to the waiver-wire by the Calgary Flames, (who would regret that move severely in the 04′ Stanley Cup finals) St. Louis was on the verge of displaying the qualities of a Stanley Cup winning, Art Ross attaining, Hart trophy earning superstar.
In what was his coming-out party; his breakout season – Martin St. Louis broke his leg on January 24, 2002, in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Marty had tallied 16 goals and 17 assists through 47 games of action, to that point. The injury was devastating to a young man who travelled the long road to NHL credibility, and was only just beginning to earn his reputation in the league.
St. Louis may not have known at the time that he would eventually play a Hall of Fame bound career and become the oldest man to win the scoring title in NHL history, doing so in an era where even playing past 35 is almost unheard of.
In 2002 Lightning head coach John Tortorella made it very clear how important St. Louis was to his club even back then, before the awards, Cup, 900 plus points and counting:
“You look at the bench after he’s gone and you understand exactly what he means to this club. It felt naked on the bench with the amount of things he does for this team. It’s a big blow to the team and it’s a big blow to this kid, too.”
Quote courtesy of CBC.com.
One could only imagine the frustration felt by a younger St. Louis who was never drafted, nor possessed the pedigree and reputation to earn multiple second chances. An injury like that could have ruined him. But when you’re good, you’re good, and Martin St. Louis is great.
Stamkos is frustrated. That’s not based on a quote from him, that’s an honest guess on my part. He must be frustrated. He was performing a Hart trophy like season, about to play in his first Winter Olympics where he would likely feature on a line with Sidney Crosby and maybe even John Tavares. He is obviously frustrated because he will, or might, miss out on all that.
As for the Olympics, Stamkos now has something to work toward. On the short estimate, healing time for a broken tibia should take three months, allowing the Bolts star just enough time to be ready for the Games in Sochi.
Stamkos has always had a great support system – this is well publicized. He comes from a good family, has enjoyed an NHL career under the mentorship of names like Recchi, Roberts, Tocchet, Lecavalier, and most importantly, Martin St. Louis who knows what it’s like to break his leg when everything is going right.
Words from The Great One:
Wayne Gretzky on @RealStamkos91: "He’s a wonderful young man and I’m sure he’ll come back a better player.”
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) November 12, 2013