When Marty St. Louis Raised The Stanley Cup
Even though I was a Washington Capitals fan for more than 30 years, I could have been a Philadelphia Flyers fan. Where I grew up, it was almost as easy to get on I-95 North and go to Philly as it was to get on I-95 South and go to Caps game. I got mostly broadcasts that came out of York or Lancaster, PA, so I heard a lot about Flyers hockey. The reason I was a Caps fan was because their AHL affiliate used to be in Baltimore, MD. I really loved having hockey in Baltimore. I stuck with the Capitals after Baltimore lost its hockey and a lot of that had to do with Olie Kolzig. He’s been my favorite athlete for a long time. It’s not a just a goalie thing. There are many other reasons well. Now I have to modify my “favorite athlete” to make it plural.
There’s no way I can’t put Tampa Bay Lightning’s Martin St. Louis up there at the top with Olie. It must be done. I actually met Marty St. Louis once while he was at the University of Vermont playing for the Catamounts. I hardly expect he’d remember. It seems like a lifetime ago now. I also have a mega-super-freak-like memory, so I still remember it pretty clearly. I used to go to Vermont a lot as kid. There were relatives up there and we’d sometimes visit when we visited my grandparents who lived in West Hartford, Connecticut. During the time that Marty was there, I visited people I knew or went on a road trips for concerts. Once, after going to show in Vermont, I spent a few days with people I didn’t know well, but who went to most of the Catamounts games. We saw Marty play. At some point while I was up there, I met Marty. I am sure it was him, because aside from my insane memory, (and I hope Marty, or Vinny that matter ever read this)I had just partaken in the inhalation of a naturally grown plant and spent a little time after meeting Marty saying “St.Louis” a lot in a very over-the-top Maurice Chevalier accent. Hey, it was extremely amusing at the time, what can I say. Over the years, ever since Vinny and Marty started playing hockey together for the Lightning, I’ve said “A-vinny a-lecavalier and Martan SanLeweee. A Oui (we) oui (we) a lot when I watch the Bolts play. I’ve also referred to them together as “Varty” or “Minny” a lot as well. That one is mostly because I’m a bit “lysdexic” and those things just come out when I try to say Vinny and Marty too fast. Hey, I’ve never said I wasn’t a bit of a silly goof-ball.
Moving on. There’s no way I can explain this, but of all the NHL players out there, for some reason, I have always somehow felt a particularly deep connection with Marty St. Louis. I couldn’t explain it if I tried. Don’t get the idea I’m trying to run around trying to make babies with him or anything. He’s married and has kids. If life could be relived and this were a different time under different circumstances, I probably wouldn’t be at adverse to the idea of having babies with though. Never the less, I’ve always known what’s been going with the Tampa Bay Lightning, even if I was a Caps fans the entire time. The only NHL team I have seen play live more than the Bolts are the Caps.
One thing I know about that Marty also knows about is being a “fun-sized” athlete. I was an athlete from childhood to at least 30. I’m 5 foot 4. Okay, okay; I’m 5 foot 3 and 3/4, but my driver’s license states I’m 5 foot 4, so let’s just pretend shall we. I know what it’s like to always be told “you can’t do this” and “you are too small” and to have people pay little attention to you no matter how good you are or how much better you play than everyone else. I know his struggle on that end without doubt. I get the added bonus of being a female along with all that, but I won’t drag gender into anything or complain about. The fact of the matter is; if you are “fun-size” in most major sports (jockeys & gymnasts excluded), you will fight for every single teeny, tiny thing you get. It doesn’t happen any other way. It just doesn’t. I understand exactly why Marty is so freakin’ great. I truly do.
During the 2003-2o04 NHL season, the Washington Capitals were having a season that wasn’t at all the kind of season the Bolts were having. As a Caps fan, that season for me was an intense, grueling struggle to maintain sobriety. There were times I honestly thought the Caps were throwing the season in order to get a draft pick. It was slow torture. Luckily, at that point in my life, I had NHL Center Ice and Tivo, so I could watch almost of the Lightning and Devils games too. I needed to be sober during some part of the day, so those games were helpful in that regard.
On the night that Tampa Bay won game 6 over the Calgary Flames in the Stanly Cup Finals, I was with other hockey fans. A celebration happened. I blame the Bolts for every single one of my actions. It is totally and completely their fault that I ran about chasing after a Wild Turkey with some guy named Jack Daniels. Jim Beam had to tell me with I awoke that only “the hair of the dog” was going to help me unplaster my face from a strange bathroom floor. Shame on you Tampa Bay Lightning. For shame.
While recovering from a hangover that had to be far worse than getting every tooth pulled without Novocaine, I got a call from a former co-worker. That call lead to a road trip to Tampa Bay to see Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. That road trip was filled with high-drama, because I only knew one of the five people in our group. Two of the others were a young couple who thrived on arguing with each other. One of the five had to be picked-up in another state on the way. That trip should have taken no more than 18 hours. It took 27 hours. We did make it to game though. To this day, I still have no idea how all the tickets were obtained, but I do know our group couldn’t sit together. I sat alone and 2 pairs each sat together in different places.
I sat in a seat that belonged to the father of a family of four who was travelling for work. I don’t think I got their last names, but the two, teenage siblings were named, Jack and Jill. After they introduced themselves, Jill pointed her thumb at Jack and said, “Don’t mind my weird little brother. He goes up hills for water all the time and keeps breaking his crown.” (See, concussions don’t just happen to athletes).
I remember many things about that game, but I’ll give you only the highlights. I remember a couple of rather large “manly men” a few rows down and diagonal to me. The amount of testosterone flowing out their pores was probably high enough in concentration, it may likely have inspired the making of a baby that night. They were big fans of foamy, adult beverages. They were professional high-fivers. I gave one of them the “goalie love” prize, because the few words he said all night were said many, many times. Those words were, “The Bulin Wall, stops it all.” I enjoyed that greatly.
Another highlight involved Marty St. Louis. The Lightning won the game. They won the Stanley Cup that night. I’d never seen the Cup lifted in person before and haven’t since. Naturally, pandemonium broke out and all the things that happen when a team wins the Cup were happening. I was just as excited and happy as every other person around me. Something happened that will be very difficult to put into words, but I’ll give it a shot. When the NHL uses the phrase “There Are No words” in their Stanley Cup Finals commercials, they weren’t kidding.
Shortly after the decibel levels hit building shaking heights and all the players were leaping around like very big kids on ice, something pulled me right to Marty St. Louis face. My ticket for that game is in a storage bin in an attic right now, so I am not sure which section I was sitting in, but I was on the lower-level, higher up. I couldn’t clearly see minute details on the players faces, but for whatever reason, Marty’s face got much clearer and seemed to be much closer to me. Just as that happened, I literally became deaf in every sense of the word. I did not hear a single, solitary sound. It was pure silence for what was probably barely a second, if that, but seemed to me to last much longer.
In that sliver of time, with Marty’s face seemingly locked on one expression as though it were in a snap shot, in total silence and as though as he was much closer to me than he was in reality, it felt to me as though every trouble in his life, every worry, every struggle, every pain, every bad thing that ever happened in his life simply never existed. In that one expression, none of things were there. Now if you want to talk about awesome; that was the definition of awe right there. As quickly as it came, it went and all the full noise of that building returned and we all celebrated as people do when a Stanley Cup has just been won.
I am a highly empathetic person. I feel joy, pain, sorrow and many other things for other people. In all honesty, I had never before and not ever since, felt that kind of absolute joy for another person. My heart was just so happy for him, there really are no words. I was thrilled for everyone, let’s not skip that part. It was an experience I wish every little hockey fan could have a chance to get in his or her lifetime. The Hockey Gods are probably wearing earplugs by now with all the my asking of them to help me get as many little kids on ice and to hockey as possible. The Hockey Gods likely hear the Charlie Brown, “wha, wa, wa, wha…” since they’re hear about it all the time from me.
The next highlight happened after the game. It involved two young hockey fans. I could have my brain removed and still somehow remember this. Three of us were outside at the appointed post-game meeting spot waiting for the other two. They were very confused and took a long time getting out of the building, so we were waiting for a long time. While we waited, we heard a little kid start sobbing and screaming so painfully, we all had to take a look to make sure a child was not in danger. The kid was squeezing his mother’s leg and the amount of tears and snot was accumulating by the second. He sobbed so hard his little body was getting a very healthy workout. I’d say the little guy was probably around 5 years old or so.
Someone who the parents of the little boy came over to talk to the parents. We heard the reason why that little hockey fan was so upset. He had just had his world shattered. For some reason in his little kid head, he had gotten the idea that when the Bolts won the Cup, he would be able to take it home and put it in his room. Little kids have very different views of the world than adults, so in some way, if you take the time to try to think like a little kid, it could make a little sense that he thought the Lightning were winning the Stanley Cup for him; so he could take it home and show his friends. His parents had to give him the bad news outside. I kept thinking to myself, “Poor little man, that’s gotta hurt.”
There were a lot of people outside still and two of them were a father and young son waiting for someone else. The little boy appeared just a little older than his fellow young hockey fan still visibly upset by the fact he wouldn’t be taking Lord Stanley’s Cup home with him. The older boy pulled on his dad’s hand and asked, “Daddy, did that little boy really think he could take the Stanley Cup home with him?” His dad gently replied, “I think he really did.” The older little guy hesitated for a bit, still watching the upset kid from a distance. His facial expressions changed several times and varied from deep thought to sadness, to finally…Eureaka!!!
He pulled on his dad’s hand again. Here’s the part where I have to let those with a good bit of macho in them that they are duly forewarned to warm-up the stiff upper lip. It’ll get you. I know it will get you. The little boy asked his dad when his dad looked back down, “Daddy, do you think it will make that little boy feel better if I give him my bike?” And THAT my friends is exactly the reason why I will never stop pestering the adults at hockey games to control themselves so that the beauty of little hockey fans never gets spoiled. Got it!?
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