By Contributing Writer Jason Kessenich original story at aepoc blog
340 goals. 572 assists. 912 points. 979 NHL games played. 7 hat tricks. 4 All-Star games. 2 Lady Byng trophies. 2 Art Ross trophies. 1 Hart trophy. 1 Ted Lindsay Award. 1 World Championship. 1 World Cup of Hockey. And 1 Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning right winger Martin St Louis has all the numbers, and hardware, to warrant a call from the Hockey Hall of Fame. In the abbreviated 48-game schedule of this 2013 NHL season, the 5’8″ un-drafted forward from Laval, Quebec notched 17 goals along with 43 assists, earning him his second Art Ross trophy for the NHL Scoring Title with 60 points. Oh and by the way, he’s 37 – the oldest player ever to win it. His 9 years between scoring titles is also the longest span in NHL history. I was able to speak with St Louis recently regarding his most recent scoring title.
Is there any way to explain the feeling of winning a second scoring title despite the Lightning not making the playoffs this year? Is it a little bittersweet?
Oh yeah for sure, it definitely is bittersweet. It’s hard to be happy with an individual accomplishment when your team is not playing after the regular season. But you know, I think a couple years from now I’ll look back at it and probably appreciate it more. It’s disappointing not being a part of the playoffs; it kind of puts a damper on all the festivities of it [the scoring title].
Do you feel that being the oldest player in NHL history to win the scoring title is a testament to your work-ethic, both on and off the ice?
You know, the hard work paid off, no doubt. I was kind of shocked – a little surprised. I mean, there are so many great players in this league. Guys have played in their late thirties and what-not, so for me to accomplish that was really a surprise to me, but obviously an honor and I’m flattered by it.
Does this second scoring title mean anything more, or different, than the first one in 2004 when you won the Cup?
Yeah I mean… the first time I won the scoring title, it was my first time, ya know? Doing something for the first time is always the best in terms of how you feel about it, because you’ve never felt like that before; you’ve never gone through it. I was glad I gave myself a chance at it this time, being well aware that Sidney [Crosby] was out, and it was a chance for me to keep pushing and hopefully get by him. At the same time though, you never know when he’s coming back and what-not. Being healthy is obviously part of it all, and I was fortunate to not miss any games this year, and I’m playing with some great players as well. So did this one feel as good as my first one, no, it didn’t – but it still felt pretty good.
During this 2013 season, you were third among NHL forwards in ice-time. Do you find yourself working even harder during the off-season now to stay in playing shape?
Well, I do a gut check every time I start. My trainer is pretty hard… but we laugh about it too. Last year, after my first week, I was joking around and almost called a press conference in the parking lot because he was so hard on me [laughing]. But the hardness of it makes everything else a little bit easier. It’s easier to play, being able to manage my season, and things like that. As off-season training goes though, well, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Going back a bit, in your single year of Juniors with the Hawkesbury Hawks, you compiled 87 points in just 31 games. Did playing that well in Juniors give you the confidence that you can compete at higher levels?
Juniors was a bridge between my Midget AAA and College playing days. They [University of Vermont] wanted me to come to College as a 17 year old, but I decided not to because I didn’t speak good English at the time and I wanted to play a good year of hockey and learn English, and Hawkesbury was the place for me to do that. The hockey was good, and yeah, it gave me the confidence to play at the next level, which for me was College. It was definitely a good thing for me.
A quick side-step here, all this talk of points and scoring; can you tell me about your first NHL point?
I think it was my first goal, in my fifth NHL game [with the Calgary Flames]. It was nothing pretty. It’s one of those rebound goals, you know? You just hack and whack at it if you’re not sure it’s loose, and it went in.
Is there any advice you would give to other under-sized, un-drafted hockey players with dreams of the NHL?
They’re not as worried about size anymore. There are so many smaller players in the league now, and you know, they no longer draft size; they draft talent. So if you’re little and you didn’t get drafted, I don’t think it’s because you’re little, it’s probably because you’re just a late-bloomer in terms of skills and strength. If that happens, you know, there’s nothing better for that than playing Juniors and College. You get four or so years of eligibility, you develop physically, and develop skills. If you’re really good at 23 and ready to play at the next level, they’re gonna take you whether you’re small, big, or what have you. There’s a price for everything, and if you want to find the way to achieve your dreams you’re going to have to pay that price. If it was easy, like I said earlier, everybody would be doing it. Some people don’t want to pay that price.
And finally, I remember seeing a Nike Ad where you said what fires you up before games is the voices of those who said you were too small to make it. You have a slew of accomplishments, awards, trophies, and championships in your career, including a Stanley Cup. Is there anything you’d like to say to those people now?
[laughing a little] “Thank you.” I think it’s all about motivating yourself… For me, I wasn’t going to take no for an answer, I didn’t want to be denied at all. If people told me that I was gonna make it, that I was great, and this and that, maybe I wouldn’t have worked as hard. Again, you know, there’s a price to pay to be successful, and I feel like I paid it.