Last month, the Mighty Mouse of hockey retired from the professional game. It was a decision that concerned his family above all else. With his three sons entering their teen-hood, the Laval native chose to end his career on a positive note—as a key member of a team that came within one game of the Stanley Cup Final this past May.
While most players his age (40) enter retirement long after they realistically should have, Marty finished with 52 points in 74 games—good for 4th in team scoring. The diminutive forward was a threat during every shift in the post-season, tallying 7 hard-earned points in 19 gruelling games.
But, if you ask Marty, there’s no point in achieving anything if the reward wasn’t hard-earned. That’s how his life was lived, as a 5’8 winger in a game dominated by those blessed with significant height. Despite winning two scoring titles, a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold over the course of his 16-year career, Marty was considered “too small” right until the end of his playing career.
When Steve Yzerman originally snubbed Marty from the team that would represent Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the speedy right-winger’s legacy was solidified: as the guy who proved size doesn’t matter.
For me, a 5’8 (5’9 on a good day) recreational hockey player living in Canada, Marty’s story means so much more than how he’ll be portrayed in the record books. To me, his story proves that no matter how overwhelming the odds seem, don’t let the fear of failure stop you from trying.
Here’s why Marty’s story should be known by more than just the hockey world:
He Went Undrafted and Still Made it
Marty entered the league through a tryout contract with the Calgary Flames in 1998. After his fair share of failure and frustration with the club, he signed with Tampa Bay. He achieved basically no success in his first professional years and repeatedly faced the possibility he might have to walk away from the game.
Then, four years later, his sheer determination earned him a Stanley Cup ring.
His Size Forced Him to EARN EVERYTHING
Marty isn’t blessed with the Herculean size that most NHL players gain in their early twenties. While he’s a strong guy who’s an excellent skater and stickhandler, pro scouts repeatedly overlooked him as someone that’s “too small” to compete.
His size haunted him right until the end of his career, when he wasn’t selected for Team Canada‘s 2014 Olympic team. Marty’s emotion got the better of him, as he leaked a few tears before interviewers. But, after Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos passed on Team Canada due to injury, Marty achieved his golden goal in replacing the star forward.
Rest assured, Marty was the first player on the ice at practice and the last to leave. At the end of each warmup, he would leave the ice only after shooting a puck through the plexiglass’ camera hole along the boards.
He’s a Character Guy who Gives as Good as he Gets
Be it the Ice Bucket Challenge or SmashFest, Marty was always up to give back to his community. Granted, this doesn’t differ from most NHL players, who are notorious for giving back, but Marty’s dedication to his family reflects this altruistic nature.
This ‘give as good as he got’ nature translated nicely onto the ice. If you need further proof of this guy’s ruthlessly tough nature, look no further than game 4 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.
He Proves that Emotion Isn’t a Weakness
St. Louis played with overflowing amounts of both skill and sheer determination. The love affair he had with the game can be summed up in one short video, where he’s seen amping up his Rangers teammates before a game.
Imagine going into battle with this guy on your flank.
Most Importantly: Marty’s a Role Model for Anyone That’s Ever Been Told “You Can’t”
This is why Marty’s story transcends hockey. No matter your dream, St. Louis’ career stands as a testament to hard work, perseverance and dedication.
He sacrificed having a stable financial life at an early age to pursue an unthinkable hockey career.
As no. 26’s experience proves, there will ALWAYS be naysayers—just ignore them and keep climbing.
(Submit equally witty and thought-provoking sign off here)