TAMPA – Marty St. Louis met his biggest fan Wednesday: Kathleen Harrod, whose "I (heart) U Marty" sign was immortalized in a Tampa Bay Times photo that has appeared several times since it was taken at a Sept. 21, 2003, preseason game.
St. Louis wanted to do something for Harrod after seeing a Times article about her last summer. The Lightning had been talking to her for a while, looking for an opportunity. Marty St. Louis Night, when the team honored him for his Hall of Fame induction this month, seemed the perfect chance.
St. Louis and Harrod met before Wednesday's game, and she brought a "I (heart) U Marty" sign. It wasn't the original sign, but it was one that goes back to 2004.
Harrod was 15 in the 2003 photo. Now 31, St. Louis is still her favorite player but in a way expressed without hearts drawn in marker.
St. Louis remembers always seeing her in the same corner of the arena with the sign during his Lightning career, including when he came back with the Rangers to a cool reception after his 2014 trade. Laughing, he complimented her strong hockey knowledge to pick him as her favorite at such a young age.
"Thanks for all the support," he said as they posed with the sign.
St. Louis on the Lightning's future
St. Louis drove into Amalie Arena on Wednesday morning and stopped at the same Starbucks he did when he lived here. But when he got closer to the building, the similarities ended.
"Diving down here, everything has changed," he said. "You can see the transformation."
St. Louis credited Lightning owner Jeff Vinik for what he has done on and off the ice, and for the community, saying it speaks volumes about where the franchise is and where it is going.
On that latter note, St. Louis expressed confidence in where the organization is going on the ice.
"They'll win (the Stanley Cup) again," he said. "I can't wait. I'll be here. This town is such a great sports town. I feel like I played a part in where this team is now and it can go so much further."