Tampa Bay Lightning
St. Louis remains Lightning’s ageless wonder
Defying one’s age is a lifelong quest rarely achieved.
Even when that temporary Fountain of Youth is discovered and harnessed by a professional athlete, it eventually will be lost.
But during that brief window of time, witnessing that late-career magic from a superstar player is a special treat to behold.
That’s certainly the case for former league MVP Marty St. Louis, 37, who enters the final week of the abbreviated season with the opportunity to capture his second career scoring title and lead the league in assists.
With 53 points and four games to play, St. Louis is tied with Steven Stamkos for the Lightning’s scoring lead. St. Louis and Stamkos are three points behind Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, who has missed the past three weeks with a broken jaw, for the league’s scoring lead.
For St. Louis to be so productive at his age, averaging 1.20 points per game, puts him in rare company.
Only two others in league history have done so at age 37 or older — Gordie Howe (1968-69), who averaged 1.36 points per game; and Mario Lemieux (2002-03), who averaged 1.36 points per game in 67 games.
St. Louis said he doesn’t have a secret formula for his late-career success; he’s just going out and playing the same way he has throughout his first 13 seasons.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel like,’’ St. Louis said. “I’ve never been 37 before, so I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel like. I just go out there and play the game and I’ve felt good this year.’’
Considering how productive St. Louis has been this season — a year in which he went almost a calendar year without any competitive games due to the lockout — there is no reason to think that with another summer of training, St. Louis can’t be on top of his offensive game again next season.
“It’s incredible to see somebody of his age be in that kind of shape. He’s a true professional,’’ Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
“He’s won a (Stanley) Cup, he’s been around and done a lot of great things in the league and been an MVP, but he keeps coming back for more. He has a burning desire to play and win, and when you have that inside you, you have to appreciate coaching a guy like that.’’
The summer workouts St. Louis puts himself through go a long way to keeping him in the shape required to endure the rigors of an NHL season. The picture of St. Louis in the current photo edition of ESPN The Magazine, in which he was photographed in just his skivvies during a photo shoot in September, illustrates his physique.
St. Louis doesn’t look like a 37-year-old, and certainly does not play like one.
“I don’t even look at him like he’s that age, really, because he is an ageless wonder and he has a lot of years left in him,’’ center Nate Thompson said. “He strives to be the best player on the ice and most of the time he is. It’s pretty unbelievable to be able to watch him night in and night out, and it’s a pleasure for me to watch him night in and night out to see the things he does at his age.’’
For Stamkos, 23 and already a two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner, seeing St. Louis continue to draw from a Fountain of Youth remains a valuable lesson.
“If they don’t know it around the league, they should that he has so much more to give,’’ Stamkos said. “Age is just a number when you talk to Marty. With his work ethic, determination and drive, he should be playing in this league, and should be a top-five scorer in this league for as long as he plays.’’