St. Louis Celebrates 1,000 NHL Games
Martin St. Louis, once considered too small to succeed at the NHL level despite his remarkable career at Vermont, joined an elite group Tuesday night by playing his 1,000th NHL game.
St. Louis, the Tampa Bay Lightning's franchise leader in points (913) and assists (569), is the 44th former college player to play 1,000 NHL games. He ranks third among active former collegians, trailing only Hal Gill (Providence) and Matt Cullen (St. Cloud State). He is the first former Vermont player to reach 1,000 games.
"I've accomplished a lot more than I could ever imagine," St. Louis said Tuesday. "In terms of playing a thousand games, I never thought … that didn't even cross my mind when you're young. I feel I have more to give. Out of all the things I've done in this League, I think it's one of those that I'm going to hold up there."
Vermont's career record holder in points and assists, St. Louis was a three-time finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. In July 2012 he was honored with the UVM Alumni Achievement Award.
"My four years here were unbelievable," St. Louis said of Vermont when accepting that award. "They really helped to understand what it meant to play hockey, but also how to try and be the best human being you can be. Obviously guys who paved the way that you see in the NHL when you are in college …guys like John LeClair and Aaron Miller I want to thank. When I was in college and saw those guys play in the NHL I was like ‘this is so possible.’ That’s one thing I feel like I can do now is help the guys coming out of Vermont. Guys who come here today know they can make it in the NHL when they come to Vermont."
Undrafted, in large part due to his 5-foot-8 frame, St. Louis led Vermont in scoring all four years he was on campus. Playing alongside linemate Eric Perrin and goaltender Tim Thomas, he led Vermont to the 1996 Frozen Four.
St. Louis's 1,000th game came against another former ECAC star, Willie Mitchell of the Los Angeles Kings. Mitchell - who has played 741 career games himself - praised St. Louis after the morning skate.
"I think it's such a cool story," Mitchell told NHL.com. "Guys like St. Louis kind of changed the game again, to be honest. He defied the odds and to be able to play against big guys. He's sees the ice so well - because some small guys get pushed off the puck, but he's so tenacious and strong on it. He's defied those odds. He's one of the most underrated players in the game. I truly believe that."
The milestone came on the road, but St. Louis will be saluted by Lightning fans at the team's next home game. His coach, Jon Cooper, took some time Tuesday to recognize the drive that has propelled St. Louis to such heights.
"That kid wants to win at everything he does, whether it's being in line first at the team meal. That's what he does," Cooper said. "He wants to be first in the drills. ... That's a desire. He's got that desire. The fire burns in him as strong as it did 1,000 games ago."
That's a desire college hockey fans can recall from St. Louis's time skating with Perrin at Gutterson Field House and around college hockey.