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Laughs, tears as Lightning retires Marty St. Louis' No. 26

Tampa Bay Lightning players all warm up wearing #26 and the original Lightning jerseys before taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (01/12/17).

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning players all warm up wearing #26 and the original Lightning jerseys before taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (01/12/17).

TAMPA — Marty St. Louis put it best as he opened his emotional speech Friday.

"Wow," he said. "What a night."

St. Louis became the first Lightning player to have his number, 26, retired in a ceremony before the game against the Blue Jackets. Owner Jeff Vinik called it "one of the most important days in the history of the franchise."

The one-hour ceremony had laughs, with captain Steven Stamkos fondly recalling St. Louis' "killer dance moves," pregame handstands and reputation as a card shark. Former Lightning coach John Tortorella, now with the Blue Jackets, joked that St. Louis was a "pain in the (butt) to coach."

There were gifts for St. Louis, including a Lightning blue Ford F-150 truck from the team.

And there were tears as St. Louis said he wished his late mother, France, who died after a heart attack in 2014, could have been there to see it.

"As a kid, she would always tell me, 'Show them, Marty. Show them,' " St. Louis said, choking back tears. "Well, Mom, I think I did."

MORE: Marty St. Louis stands tall as Lightning's greatest, most inspiring player, Martin Fennelly writes.

There were video montages and highlights. All of St. Louis awards were in Amalie Arena, including the Stanley Cup. Many former teammates were on hand, as well as St. Louis' family. There were five speakers in all, including commissioner Gary Bettman and general manager Steve Yzerman.

Lightning players, wearing throwback St. Louis jerseys, were on the bench, as were the Blue Jackets.

St. Louis, 41, received a standing ovation, as well as many chants of "Marty!" before thanking everyone. It ended, fittingly, with the St. Louis goal song, Louie, Louie.

Said St. Louis: "I'll always be a Bolt."

MORE: Watch a video replay of Marty St. Louis' jersey retirement ceremony on the Tampa Bay Times Sports Facebook page.

CALLAHAN CONCERN: There is growing concern among the Lightning about F Ryan Callahan's latest health setback.

Callahan missed the first eight games of the season while he recovered from offseason hip surgery. He returned, played for a month, then was sidelined for 15 more games because of issues with his surgically repaired hip. Now, after returning and playing three games, Callahan is down again.

"There's lots of concern," coach Jon Cooper said. "It's tough. … Let's move our team aside; it's Callahan. Everybody knows who follows our team what a gamer he is, his passion to play and to help our team, especially when things haven't gone as well as we'd have hoped.

"For him to get in (three) games and have to be out with some lingering effects with some past issues he's had, it's killing the kid, so you feel for him. We're missing an emotional leader. It's tough all the way around."

RELATED: Lightning falls to Blue Jackets on Marty St. Louis' night.

CONDRA RETURNS: F Erik Condra was recalled from AHL Syracuse to add depth to the roster ahead of the six-game, 13-day road trip that begins Monday in Los Angeles.

"For a variety of reasons," Cooper said when asked about Condra's return. "Whether he's in the lineup or not, we're heading out west. We need guys. That's a long way to go."

Condra was scratched Friday against the Blue Jackets. So was D Luke Witkowski.

NUTS AND BOLTS: G Andrei Vasilevskiy started.

Times staff writer Roger Mooney contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Laughs, tears as Lightning retires Marty St. Louis' No. 26 01/13/17 [Last modified: Saturday, January 14, 2017 12:53am]
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