Martin St. Louis an ‘underdog’ at Calgary Olympic hockey team orientation camp
Diminutive veteran is oldest player trying to earn Team Canada roster shot, but he deserves to be a shoo-in to make team to cap an illustrious career
Martin St. Louis
Photograph by: Mike Carlson, AP
CALGARY — The oldest player auditioning to play on Canada’s Olympic team at the 2014 Sochi Games doesn’t try to hide the grey in his summer stubble with any store-bought concoction.
“Why would I cover it up? For what?” shrugs Martin St. Louis, the reigning NHL scoring champion and Tampa Bay Lightning right-winger.
He just turned 38 and scoffs at Father Time, but St. Louis is still trying to show why he belongs in Sochi next February even though he should be a lock to make the team, along with teammate Steve Stamkos, right?
“Lots of people are saying he’s an underdog ... when people say that to me that’s insulting to Marty,” Stamkos said. “Just watch the guy play.
“Everyone talks about his age and how he’s going to slow down. He’s been one of the best players in the league the last five years (407 points in 371 regular-season games) and keeps getting better.
“He’s a special human being, with how hard he works and the shape he stays in and the determination he shows every day.”
St. Louis was on Canada’s 2006 Olympic team roster in Turin, Italy, but he was left off the 2010 Vancouver Games team that was picked by his current boss, Steve Yzerman. Back then, Yzerman was still learning at the feet of Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland before he was hired by the Lightning in May 2010.
With St. Louis not making the 2010 team, it made for a dicey headline, maybe even a tense head-to-head chat later between Yzerman and his best player.
But St. Louis, fighting his size or lack of it (five-foot-nine, 185 pounds) his whole hockey life, sloughed off missing Vancouver.
“He brought it up right away, and there was nothing he could have told me to change how I felt,” St. Louis said. “I was disappointed, but it was done.
“Life is full of disappointments. It’s how you get back up from them,” he said. “I was glad they hired Steve because he can make tough decisions and that’s what you need in a leader.
“They won the gold and I moved on. I started to focus on the next one (2014 Olympics). I wanted to make it hard on them to keep me off the next one (Team Canada roster).”
That’s a metaphor for St. Louis’s hockey road, of course. He was never drafted, was a fourth-line player with the Flames in Calgary in his first NHL shot, then moved on to Tampa where he won a Stanley Cup, against the Flames in 2004. He also won a Hart Trophy, the oldest player to win a scoring title, and, yet, he’s not a shoo-in to make the 25-man roster for Sochi next February.
St. Louis has a fight on his hands. In fact, Stamkos, normally a centre, could be taking one of St. Louis’s chances. He was on right wing in the ball-hockey drills session Monday in Calgary, with New York Islanders captain John Tavares in the middle and another centre, San Jose Sharks’ Logan Couture, on left wing.
Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks and Rick Nash of the New York Rangers, both members of the 2010 Olympic squad, also play right wing. They look like shoo-ins to make the squad.
Patrick Sharp, the Chicago Blackhawks’ all-purpose forward, was on the right side with likely team captain Sidney Crosby on Monday, maybe a tipoff to what the coaches think of his chances.
Which brings us back to St. Louis. How can this tremendous player be an on-the-fence Olympic candidate? He’s been fighting his whole life for respect, more so than recognition.
“That’s how it’s been for me. Not being drafted, fighting through. Keep knocking on the door,” St. Louis said.
Taylor Hall, the Edmonton Oilers winger, is 17 years younger than St. Louis, who turned 38 in June. It should make St. Louis feel old, but it doesn’t.
“There’s a huge youth movement in the NHL and internationally, but I’ve had guys like Stammer in Tampa keeping me young,” said St. Louis, who has had worked out with the same trainer for eight years.
St. Louis said he’s actually stronger than he was a few years back, adding that it has allowed him to keep his speed.
“Once you lose that ... and as you get older, all those hours in the trenches, you get smarter.”
“I want to be treated as I am, not how old I am as a hockey player.”
St. Louis had a huge sense of pride winning the scoring title in the 2013 lockout season at age 37.
“Obviously, Sidney goes down and it’s like, ‘OK, there’s an opportunity.’ It’s hard to win a scoring title. I am really proud of it. Things like that rejuvenate you ... it quiets the criticism,” he said.
Stamkos was the first player taken in the 2008 NHL entry draft, while every team passed on St. Louis, even if he was a star at the University of Vermont during his NCAA days.
“We’ve taken different paths to get where we are today, but the last five years I’ve spent with Marty have been so educational for me,” Stamkos said. “Coming in as an 18-year-old, you think you’re working hard, but you look at Marty and see what he’s accomplished.”
St. Louis is the elder statesman at the Calgary camp — he’s a year older than Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle — but as he comes back to Calgary, he flashes back to how it once was, when he was trying to break into the NHL.
“This is where I achieved my dream, sitting next to Theo Fleury, but it took me a couple of years to make my way in the NHL because I was still a fan.
“Once I settled down and stopped selling myself short, I took the next step,” St. Louis said.
He has plenty of career highlights to look back at, yet will St. Louis make this Olympic team to cap his career?
“I was answering a lot of questions yesterday (Sunday) when I got here ... they thought I was an underdog,” he said.
“Underdog? I don’t see it.
“But, hey, everybody pulls for the underdog, right?”
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