BUFFALO, N.Y. – Marty St. Louis knew he'd see some of his old teammates at his Hockey Hall of Fame induction, but the Lightning had specifically not told him just how many.
A contingent of about 20 players, coaches and staff members made the hop, skip and jump from Buffalo to Toronto on Monday night to see St. Louis inducted.
"You could really tell he was pretty excited to have the support there, guys he played with in Tampa and his time in New York," said D Ryan McDonagh, who played with St. Louis on the Rangers. "We didn't really know where we would be sitting, so to be off to the side there was cool to have a great view of his speech. It was obviously very well-done by him and very deserved."
The Lightning stood to the side of the stage, where St. Louis stopped to shake all of their hands after his speech.
When the schedule came out, C Steven Stamkos and D Victor Hedman saw the opportunity to be there. They spearheaded a group effort to get so much of the team there.
They stayed on the plane, when the rest of the team disembarked in Buffalo, then bused back after the ceremony, making the round trip in about seven hours.
Stamkos called it a whirlwind day, but worth it.
"Marty was one of those guys that was kind of the light in the room," he said. "Anyone who got the chance to play with him – players, coaching staff, training staff, whoever it was –they definitely had an impact on Marty and Marty definitely had an impact on us. I know how appreciative Marty was that everyone showed up. It goes to show the quality of person that Marty is."
C J.T. Miller looked up to St. Louis growing up, trying to make the NHL and then played with him in New York when he was trying to become full-time.
"It's emotional," he said. "We're so happy for him to see him up there, I think everybody got choked up. Everyone there was happy to be there for him and his family."
They were there for St. Louis, but the Lightning contingent enjoyed the event overall.
"It culminated with Marty in the end, but it was all the pre-hype and just the people you bump into and get to be in the same room as," coach Jon Cooper said. "Sitting in the back, waiting to go out for Marty's speech and Wayne Gretzky walks by. Holy cow."