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More grit and glory days in their faces

TAMPA — In the hallway leading to the Lightning locker room at the St. Pete Times Forum, there is not one picture of the team celebrating its 2004 Stanley Cup title.

It is the same in the locker room, the players' lounge, the weight room.

Think about that. The most memorable moment in franchise history gets zero play.

A glaring oversight, said right wing Marty St. Louis, who was part of that championship team.

"You'd like to see it," he said, "and show the other guys what we've been through."

That is the plan, said coach Guy Boucher, who wants those images where players can see them; a design makeover for those common areas he made sound like a history lesson, a tutorial and even a symbolic papering over of a culture of losing.

The pictures have yet to be selected, but they will feature Lightning players mobbing each other while celebrating the Cup victory. If Boucher's history is any indication, expect companion photos of players blocking shots and throwing checks.

"It's making sure the players that are new know that this organization has had success in the past, and we can tap into that experience," Boucher said. "I've always done that, gathered positive things to look at and look up to and strive for."

Mathieu Darche, a former Lightning player who last season played for Boucher at AHL Hamilton, said it sounds exactly like what the 2007 Calder Cup champions had in their locker room.

"As soon as you walked in the dressing room, there were all different pictures kind of mixed up together," Darche said. "Guys winning the Cup, guys scoring goals, a couple of guys fighting, guys diving to block the puck. It's a reminder of what you have to do. I liked it."

• • •

What kind of buttons is Boucher trying to push within a team that has missed the playoffs three straight years?

"I really don't believe in buttons," said the coach, who has a degree in sports psychology from the University of Montreal.

"I don't know how people will react (to the images). Different people react in different ways. But it's clear, if you surround yourself with positiveness and images of success and people who had success, it is constructive rather than destructive."

"It sounds like Guy is trying to create a different vision for the team," said Larry Lauer, who holds a doctorate in sports psychology from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. "A winning team, a gritty team, to get them to believe in it and show them what it takes. On a number of levels, it sounds as if he's trying to create a vision about what could be."

But Lauer, a sports psychology consultant for USA Hockey's national team development program, said photos, as powerful as they can be, are more reminders than primary motivators.

"A coach can only do so much," he said. "He's got to get his leaders to buy in and express that message every day in practice, in the locker room. You're trying to create a culture change. It's difficult, but if he gets his leaders to buy in, players will follow."

• • •

The first time Brett Clark walked into the Canadiens locker room and saw the pictures of the team's 52 Hall of Famers ringing the top of the walls like a crown molding, he said he got chills.

The Lightning can't match that history, but Clark, who played for Montreal from 1997 to 1999 and this month came to Tampa Bay as a free agent, said a Stanley Cup photo gallery can be as effective.

"It's still tradition," the defenseman said, "whether it's one Cup or eight or 15, it's still the players and how they competed and did it. To see that stuff every day when you walk into the rink, it means a lot. 'This is what we have to do to get to the next level.' "

"You're creating an identity of what the Tampa Bay Lightning are," general manager Steve Yzerman said. "The more you see it, the more you hear it, it's encouraged, the expectation is there. Eventually, the players figure it out."

Yzerman always had it figured out. On the day the Red Wings in 1983 drafted him fourth overall, he read through the team media guide to brush up on the organization's history. He also saw Detroit owner Mike Ilitch create in and around the Red Wings locker room at Joe Louis Arena a photographic tribute to the team's greatest players.

"So, it's important these young kids coming up know who Martin St. Louis is and Vincent Lecavalier and even going back to Brad Richards and Dan Boyle and (Nikolai) Khabibulin," Yzerman said. "Those guys were there when they won the Stanley Cup. You want these players to feel a bond with the organization."

"It's just something I've always believed in, and Steve believes in," Boucher said. "Strength and culture come from past experiences."

Boucher wants his players to take a look.

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

More grit and glory days in their faces 07/17/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 17, 2010 11:05pm]

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