Born and raised in Laval, Martin St. Louis was recently accorded hockey’s highest honour – membership in the Hockey Hall of Fame, something he says he will carry in mind, heart, and soul for the rest of his life.
Now 43, the product of Hockey Laval, is an example of accomplishment through hard work, perseverance, dedication, a never-say-die attitude, and lots of blood, sweat and tears – all in the pursuit of excellence, no matter the odds.
Small in stature by height and weight in athletic standards, St. Louis was not deterred by these artificial limitations in his dream of a hockey career, not just professional hockey but hockey at the highest level – the world–renowned National Hockey League (NHL).
Under normal circumstances, players who reach the NHL land there through the league’s annual draft of junior-age players. Rarely does anyone who hasn’t played major junior hockey in Canada, or in any other country that calls hockey a major sport, ever make it to the world’s best league.
Undrafted, but undaunted by the slight from professional scouts who have a large say in who gets drafted, St. Louis beat the odds, securing a contract from the Calgary Flames in 1998, five years after his ‘class of 1993’ was drafted’.
But it wasn’t easy. I came only after four years of skills-honing in top level university hockey, with the University of Vermont Catamounts in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, better known as the NCAA. Pursuing his NHL dream, this hockey dynamo and future NHL superstar earned top-ten honours for the Hokey Baker award for best college hockey player in the U.S. The NCAA includes hundreds of colleges and universities who compete in hockey conferences throughout the United States.
1000 games, 1000 points, Olympic Gold
The early NHL years were full of challenges, obstacles and disappointments for the future hall of famer as he bounced around several NHL and American Hockey League teams. Landing in Tampa Bay in 2000, he went on to play more than 1000 games and record more than 1000 points in a 17-year career, feats of heady heights.
Hockey Hall of Fame membership is rare, earned only by the best of the best. Martin St. Louis would not be denied in his first year of eligibility, after collecting a shelf-full of hockey gold, including a Stanley Cup ring in 2004 with Tampa Bay Lightning. During his fabulous stint in the NHL, he won trophies as most valuable player, top scorer (twice), and most gentlemanly player (three times). Playing in six all-star games, in 2013 at the ripe old age of 37 (for hockey players), he became the oldest Art Ross Trophy (top point getter) winner in NHL history.
In 2014 he capped off stellar runs in international hockey with Olympic Gold for Canada in Sochi, Russia, after helping Canada win several gold medals at the annual World Championships.
“For you, mom.”
“My mom told me to believe in myself and never quit,” St. Louis told family, friends, former teammates and hockey glitterati gathered in Toronto for the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame ceremonies.
In humility and gratitude, passion dripping with emotion, the tough little competitor thanked parents Normand and France, sister Isabelle, his wife Heather and their sons Ryan, Lucas, and Mason for being his bedrocks.
“I could not have done it without you,” he said, just moments before leaving the podium with a heart-wrenching. “This one’s for you, mom,” in sweet tribute to his mother who passed away a few years ago.