Marty St. Louis was head and shoulders above his teammates Sunday at the Winter Olympics.
Okay, so the 5-foot-7 Lightning captain had some help as he was carried on the shoulders of goaltender Mike Smith during Sunday's closing ceremony as Canada celebrated its 3-0 gold-medal victory over Sweden in Sochi, Russia.
He still was on top of the hockey world.
"For me it's not just a celebration of winning the gold medal," St. Louis told reporters after the game. "It's so hard to make Team Canada. It's hard work. This means more than just this tournament. This means all the hard work to be on the team."
For St. Louis, 38, it also means a happy ending.
Left off Canada's original roster — something that strained the relationship between him and Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman, who also is Tampa Bay's general manager — St. Louis was a late replacement for injured Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos.
And though St. Louis was the 13th or 14th forward for most of the tournament — he was a healthy scratch for one game and dressed but did not play in the semifinal win over the United States — the right wing played an energetic and noticeable game against Sweden.
On a fourth line with the Rangers' Rick Nash and the Avalanche's Matt Duchene, St. Louis had three shots and was plus-1 in 6:46 of ice time. He also was on the ice for Jonathan Toews' first-period goal that turned out to be the winner.
"I had nothing to do with it," St. Louis said, "but it was just crazy I was in the (celebration) pile."
As for the ups and downs between him and Yzerman during the Olympic process, St. Louis said the two have spoken.
"But that's between me and Steve," he said. "He had a tough job to do, and we're competitors. I'm glad that it turned out the way it did."
"I'm very happy for Marty," Yzerman told reporters in Sochi. "He's been through a lot. He won a Stanley Cup, and now he's won an Olympic gold medal, and he came through in a difficult circumstance."
So did Yzerman, who took unrelenting criticism for some of Canada's personnel choices.
Yzerman, who also was Canada's executive director when it won gold in 2010 in Vancouver, spoke candidly of the pressures before the tournament. On Sunday he said he will not be Canada's executive director if the NHL participates in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.
"It's time to let someone else have a shot at it," he said.
"He had the most pressure of anybody," Lightning coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times. "He gets criticized constantly for everything he's done. I know what he's done. I know how much work he's put in to this. He's not going to get an actual physical medal, but out of everybody, he deserves it the most."
For St. Louis, it was another addition to a brilliant career that includes a Stanley Cup in 2004 with Tampa Bay, a league MVP trophy and twice leading the league in points.
"I'm the one winning the gold medal, but it's everyone who believed in me, my family, my friends, the coaches who helped me," St. Louis said. "I'm proud to have this around my neck, but it's not only a victory for me, it's for everybody who helped me."
"Probably, emotionally, it wasn't the way he wanted it to go down, the way he was selected," Cooper said. "But five years from now, all anybody is going to know is Marty St. Louis had a gold medal around his neck. Nobody is going to know he didn't get on the team till late."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected] View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.
First Period—1, Canada, Jonathan Toews (Jeff Carter, Shea Weber), 12:55. Penalties—Jonathan Ericsson, Sweden (holding); Chris Kunitz, Canada (high sticking).
Second Period—2, Canada, Sidney Crosby (unassisted), 15:43. Penalties—Jakob Silfverberg, Sweden (delaying the game); Patrik Berglund, Sweden (boarding).
Third Period—3, Canada, Chris Kunitz (unassisted), 9:04. Penalties—Corey Perry, Canada (Tripping).
Shots on Goal—Canada 12-11-13—36. Sweden 11-9-4—24. Goalies—Canada, Carey Price. Sweden, Henrik Lundqvist. Referee—Brad Meier, United States; Kelly Sutherland, Canada. Linesmen—Derek Amell, Canada; Greg Devorski, Canada; Mikhail Buturlin, Russia; Roman Gofman, Russia.