TAMPA — Martin St. Louis, the first Lightning player to have his jersey retired and a central part of the team's Stanley Cup championship in 2004, is now headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"It's an honor," St. Louis said Tuesday in a conference call with the four players and two builders in this year's class, who will be inducted Nov. 12 in Toronto. "For me to join the great players who are in now is unbelievable. I'm very thankful to the committee to value my impact on he game so much to make me a first-ballot inductee. It's an honor for me and my family."
St. Louis, 43, played 14 of his 17 NHL seasons with Tampa Bay from 2000 to 2014. He is the franchise's all-time leader in total points (953) and assists (588), and ranks second behind Vincent Lecavalier in career goals (365) and games played (972). When the Lightning won their only championship in 2004, he won the Hart Trophy as the league MVP.
"I am overjoyed for you and your family," current Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, a teammate of St. Louis for his first six seasons in Tampa, wrote on Twitter. "Not many people deserve this honor more than you. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to play alongside you for many years."
St. Louis, diminutive at 5-foot-8 but tough and prolific as a scorer, went from not being drafted to playing 17 years in the NHL, most of them in Tampa. He started his career in Calgary and finished with the Rangers after a difficult and public split at the end of his career; he was fondly welcomed home by fans in 2017 when his No. 26 was the first jersey retired at Amalie Arena.
"I wasn't surprised, from everything he's done for hockey, the Lightning, the Rangers and what he's done for the NHL," Lecavalier said. "It's always nice to see a good friend and a player you played with be honored in such a way. It's the biggest individual honor you can get. It shows how much you've done for the sport."
St. Louis joins Dave Andreychuk, the captain from the 2004 championship team as prominent Lightning players in the Hall of Fame, and as the first to play most of his career with the Lightning. Andreychuk played only the final four seasons of his 23-year NHL career in Tampa Bay.
Denis Savard and Dino Ciccarelli, who each played parts of two seasons with the Lightning in the team's early years in the 1990s, are also in the Hall of Fame, as is Mark Recchi, who played part of one season for Tampa Bay in 2008-09.
St. Louis' Hall of Fame class also includes two "builders" in current NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, as well as Willie O'Ree, who became the NHL's first black player in 1958. Goalie Martin Brodeur is arguably the headliner of the class, which also features Alexander Yakushev, who starred for the Soviet Union in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics, and Jayna Hefford, who played for Canada in five Winter Olympics and was part of four gold-medal-winning teams.
Contact Greg Auman at firstname.lastname@example.org and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.