Officially his New York Rangers career clocked in at 93 regular season games and 44 playoff games played over the course of a year and a half.
To me, however, Martin St. Louis lives in that Stanley Cup Final run two years ago. More specifically, he lives between the blue line and the goal line, skating towards Dustin Tokarski with the puck on his stick during overtime in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden.
I am 25 years old then, watching real magic happen before my eyes for the first time as a sports fan. Dig into me and find my deepest roots and you will see them stained in Rangers blue. From the day I was born (for real, when I was born my Dad watched a Rangers game with me in the hospital that night) I have loved this team. That's not to say I'm a bigger or better fan than you are, it's just to highlight the fact I have followed this team my entire life and there is residual effects to something like that.
One of them is inherently waiting for the other shoe to drop. That sickening feeling in your stomach that what you're watching will not last, that it will end and it will hurt. Like it always does.
The 2014 playoffs were no different. After a magical comeback over the Pittsburgh Penguins -- started by St. Louis' ability to play through one of the toughest moments in his life after his mother passed away -- in Round 2, the Rangers found themselves up 2-0 over Montreal in the Eastern Conference Final coming back to Madison Square Garden. In Game 3 the Rangers tied the game (courtesy of Chris Kreider, of course) with less than a minute to go and walked into overtime with a chance to go up 3-0 in the series. And then Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime goal to give the Canadiens the win ... and he scored it with his face.
With the series now sitting at 2-1, Rangers domination seemed unlikely. Sweeping Montreal was a pipe dream now, and I was an idiot for even thinking it could happen. And as luck would have it, Game 4 went to overtime as well, except this time the fate of the series hung in the balance. Win and the Rangers would go up 3-1; lose and the series would be tied at 2-2 heading back into Montreal.
Which brings us back to where St. Louis sits in my memory. He's skating it on Tokarski. I'm at the game, standing up, but in my head I'm not in love with the angle St. Louis is coming at him from and I'm almost positive he's not going to score.
And then St. Louis does what he's always done: He beat the odds. He rifled a perfect shot, just high enough to avoid Tokarski's rising shoulder and just low enough to kiss the crossbar on its way in. It hits the back of the net. The red light is going off. The goal horn is blaring. I am jumping now, but I can't take my eyes off the puck in the back of the net. I am speechless. How. Did. He. Do. That?
Sports, especially when followed over years and years, slowly blend into a single, morphing memory. We categorize the good years and the bad years within that entity. Things weave together and get lost in the shuffle. The little things from years ago slip away.
Some things, though, stay forever. I will never forget that moment in Game 4. That moment where I actually started believing in magic, where I truly believed in that team and where everything I had ever wanted started to come together. It didn't end up working out the way I wanted it to in the end, but no one can take that moment away from me after St., Louis scored that goal. Jumping up, eyes wide, watching the team celebrate and realizing my favorite sports team was one win away from a berth in the Stanley Cup Final.
I'll never forget that night. I'll also never forget the man who gave it to me.
Thank you for everything, St. Louis. It was a pleasure to watch you play hockey.
It was even better to root for you.