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Lightning rewards longtime star St. Louis with captain's 'C'

ST. PETERSBURG — Marty St. Louis knew he had an advantage when it came to the Lightning's search for its 10th captain.

As he joked Monday night to a crowd of about 1,500 at the Mahaffey Theater, where his captaincy was announced, "The criteria this year was old and short."

But as St. Louis, 5 feet 7 and 38 years old, spoke at the end of the event in which the team was introduced to an invitation-only crowd of sponsors and season-ticket holders, the right wing's persona, and the moment, overwhelmed his physical presence.

In fact, center Steven Stamkos, whom coach Jon Cooper also considered for the job, said if he had been chosen, "I'd almost want to give it to him."

"Everyone knew the right choice," Stamkos added. "You couldn't ask for a better guy to lead this team. Marty has been a guy I've looked up to since Day 1 and continue to to this day. Everyone who comes to this organization does the same thing."

As for St. Louis, he called his captaincy, "Probably the nicest accomplishment you can have" and "one of those days I'll remember forever."

Stamkos will remain an alternate. Center Nate Thompson and defenseman Matt Carle will alternate wearing an "A" home and away.

St. Louis, who in July 2000 signed as a free agent, is in his 13th season with the team and is an iconic face of the franchise. He is a former league MVP, a two-time NHL points champion, a three-time Lady Byng Trophy winner and a six-time All-Star.

He also was an alternate under Vinny Lecavalier, who was captain since 2008 but was bought out of his contract in June.

Still, Cooper and assistants Rick Bowness, George Gwozdecky and Steve Thomas took all of training camp to decide between St. Louis and Stamkos, though it apparently was more a waiting game to see if St. Louis would do anything to lose the job.

Instead, the Laval, Quebec, native reinforced everything Cooper knew about him.

"Did we end up going with the front-runner? We did," Cooper said. "It's been Marty's team for a little while. It's soon to be Stammer's team at some point and this is just a natural progression."

It is a natural progression for St. Louis, too, who talked about how much he learned from watching Dave Andreychuk captain the Lightning to the 2003-04 Stanley Cup championship.

"He just kept things in perspective for us," St. Louis said. "He guided us, calmed us down, picked us up. You just felt it."

But just as Andreychuk leaned on teammates such as Tim Taylor and Darryl Sydor, St. Louis said he won't be solo as a leader.

"I have a great supporting staff," he said of Stamkos, Carle and Thompson. "Everybody on this team has to want to be a leader. When you have 20 leaders, everyone is pulling in the same direction. That's what I'm looking for as captain, to make sure everybody wants to lead."

So, call St. Louis the leader of the leaders.

"To be able to do that is something I'll remember forever," he said, "not only for me but for my family. They've been asking me for a few months who is going to be the next captain. I'm happy I didn't disappoint them."

Or the crowd, which stood and roared when St. Louis first was introduced and again when he was named captain.

"Marty deserved this night," Cooper said, turned to his captain and added, "Apparently, you are very popular."

Moves: Defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Brian Lee, both out with knee injuries, were put on long-term injured reserve, allowing Tampa Bay use their salary cap hits (Ohlund is at $3.607 million, Lee at $1.15 million) to exceed the league cap limit of $64.3 million. The team is at about $65.3 million.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.

Lightning captains

PLAYER YEARS

Marty St. Louis 2013 -

Vinny Lecavalier 2008-13

Tim Taylor 2006-08

Dave Andreychuk 2002-06

Vinny Lecavalier 1999-01

Chris Gratton 1999-2000

Bill Houlder 1999-2000

Rob Zamuner 1998-99

Mikael Renberg 1997-98

Paul Ysebaert 1995-98

None 1992-95

Lightning rewards longtime star St. Louis with captain's 'C' 10/01/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 12:14am]

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