TAMPA — The Lightning's announcement that it will retire Marty St. Louis' No. 26 during a ceremony during a Jan. 13 game against Columbus stirred emotions among fans who resented how St. Louis left Tampa Bay.
The Times' Lightning coverage team of columnist Tom Jones, beat writer Joe Smith and columnist Martin Fennelly weigh in:
Does the retirement of Marty St. Louis' number mean all is forgiven? Should it?
Tom Jones: I've said from Day 1 that fans needed to get over feeling betrayed by St. Louis. No one could ever question St. Louis' dedication every single time he took the ice.
While full and exact details for St. Louis' trade request remain somewhat murky, I do believe St. Louis gave it his all while with Tampa Bay and I do believe his being initially left off the Canadian Olympic by Steve Yzerman was a valid reason to feel hurt.
The trade, which brought Tampa Bay Ryan Callahan and a first-round pick, turned out to be a good deal for the Lightning, so I'm not sure why fans felt sabotaged.
Ultimately, St. Louis has expressed his love for Tampa Bay and the Lightning organization. If you haven't forgiven him by now then you're holding on to unnecessary bitterness. Time to move on and embrace the greatest player in franchise history.
Joe Smith: From an organizational standpoint, yes, it seems all is forgiven. You can sense that from the fact owner Jeff Vinik and, he said, GM Steve Yzerman, were in full support of this move. Some fans may never get over the messy ending. Even St. Louis understands that.
But, as in most things in life, time heals. And St. Louis' jersey retirement, its resulting celebration, should be one way for the relationship between him and the fans to continue to mend. Eventually, St. Louis will be forgiven, and remembered for how much he brought the franchise, including the 2004 Stanley Cup.
Fennelly: As much as can be forgiven is forgiven —- and should be. I'm not saying lightning GM Steve Yzerman will be dabbing at his tears that night — but this is what respectful, professional organizations do. You rise above. You realize what matters.
Did Marty in effect quit in mid-captaincy? Did he do it partly because of Olympic snubs ? ( By the way, he won gold in Sochi after being added to team Canada). I never totally got his decision.
He also was the mighty mite who led the Lightning to a Stanley Cup — period.
You respect the history.
Why didn't the Lightning retire Vinny Lecavalier's No. 4 first?
Smith: Lecavalier may have arrived first, the Lightning's No. 1 pick in 1998. And he's certainly one of the pillars, former faces, of the franchise. But St. Louis was arguably Tampa Bay's best player ever, it's all-time leading scorer, a borderline Hall of Famer.
St. Louis was also the first to retire, after the 2014-15 season. Lecavalier just retired after last season. Lecavalier will have his night, and No. 4 jersey retired, at some point. It was just St. Louis' turn.
Fennelly: I'd retire Vinny this year, too.
But if you were to carve you a Mount Rushmore for Tampa Sports history, Marty belongs on it — more than any Lightning player. Fans can be ambivalent to a point. But history is history. And Marty and his Hall of Fame motor made The lightning matter.
Marty goes first. I am down with that
Jones: No one could have argued that Vinny's No. 4 should have been retired first and it eventually will be retired. Lecavalier was the first real face of the Lightning franchise and remains, most likely, the most popular player among Lightning fans. It appears that the Lightning is retiring Marty's number first because he retired a year before Lecavalier.
Honestly, St. Louis was an overall better player and deserved to have his number retired first. But, you watch, Lecavalier will deservedly have his No. 4 retired next season.