In the 102-year history of the National Hockey League, 348 individuals have played 1,000 or more regular season games. 44 of them, or 12.6%, have played some part of their career with the Atlanta or Calgary Flames. We call these players Long-Timers.
Let’s take a look at Martin St. Louis.
Originally from Laval, Quebec – a Montreal suburb – St. Louis eschewed the “normal” junior path and headed to college, where he spent four seasons at the University of Vermont (including two as captain). Undrafted, St. Louis played two-thirds of the 1997-98 with the IHL’s Cleveland Lumberjacks before the Flames signed him as a free agent and brought him to Saint John.
The following two seasons in the Flames system established two things: St. Louis was an excellent AHL player, scoring at well over a point-per-game pace. On the other hand, he was an okay if unspectacular depth NHLer in limited use. Unsure of what to do with him, the Flames bought him out.
Then Tampa Bay signed him and St. Louis figured everything out. His first season with Tampa saw him double his offensive production from his nearly-full prior season in Calgary. A couple seasons later, he nearly doubled his production again and he established himself as a consistently good and occasionally excellent offensive forward.
- He scored 30+ goals on six different occasions.
- He amassed 90+ points four different occasions.
- He won two scoring titles, one Hart and three Lady Byngs with the Lightning.
The cherry on top was in 2004, when a player that the Flames signed and developed led another team to a Stanley Cup (and beat them in the Final). Good times. He also won Olympic gold, a World Cup and a Spengler Cup internationally.
After 13 seasons with Tampa, St. Louis requested a trade in 2014 and was traded to the New York Rangers with a conditional second round pick in exchange for Ryan Callahan, a first round pick, a conditional second round pick and a conditional seventh round pick. He spent the final season and change with the Rangers before retiring in 2015.
St. Louis has coached a little bit of bantam hockey in Quebec. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018. It’s unclear if St. Louis would’ve developed into something special in Calgary, but it’s a bit of a shame they couldn’t have held onto him as an asset and gotten something to show for him when he left.