Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Hockey Life: Captains lead

Much has been written and said over the past week on the news that Tampa Bay's Marty St. Louis requested a trade after being left off Team Canada's initial roster for the Winter Games in Sochi. St. Louis, the reports said, was miffed at Team Canada's executive director Steve Yzerman, who, as Lightning GM, is his boss here in Hockey Bay.

The news, that St. Louis would waive his no-trade clause only for the New York Rangers, hit hard. For the Lightning, St. Louis is not only its captain, but he is the team's heart and soul -- and has been for years. As Marty goes, so goes the Lightning.

Most troublesome, though, were St. Louis' comments when asked about it after his return, an Olympic gold medal in hand thanks to being named as an injury replacement for Lightning teammate Steve Stamkos, from Russia less than 10 days before the NHL trade deadline. All St. Louis would say was that he and Yzerman had a conversation about it. Nothing else, other than that was all he'd say, as he didn't want it to become a distraction and affect the guys in the locker room.

Really, Marty? This is what a captain does?

The Lightning is gearing back up, pushing hard to make the playoffs for the first time in a few seasons and St. Louis didn't come out, when the opportunity first presented itself and since then, to say that, yes, he was ticked off about the initial slight, but that's in the past and it's time to focus all of his efforts, especially as the captain, on helping the Lightning. But, he hasn't.

To his credit, St. Louis has continued to play his heart out since the NHL resumed its season. Four goals in two games are pretty impressive, just like his play before the break. This is a case, however, where his words would be greater than his actions. No team needs a distraction like this.

Look at it this way. What kind of message does this send to his Lightning teammates, especially Stamkos, the Lightning's captain-in waiting. That it's OK to pout and be a petulant brat just because you didn't get what you wanted? Sure, his teammates offer public words of encouragement for St. Louis. I wonder, though, what they say to themselves and others when the media, and Marty, aren't within earshot.

Furthermore, what kind of message does this send to the legions of young hockey players who idolize St. Louis? It's no secret that Colin idolizes Boston's Patrice Bergeron, but he holds St. Louis in pretty high esteem. Because Colin will likely grow no taller than the diminutive St. Louis, I've encouraged Colin to model his game after St. Louis' -- all-out tenacity, the will to win and to lead by example.

But, now, after this drama of St. Louis' boo-hoo trade-me request, as well as his lack of publicly committing to the Lightning, maybe pointing out St. Louis' example of leadership might not be the best advice. In fact, it's a teaching moment -- on how not to be a captain.

For the past two weeks, as Colin's ankle fracture heals, he has attended his squirt-peewee Pinellas P.A.L. Stars games. Even if he can't help them on the ice, he cheers for them from the stands. As the team's captain, that's his job.

All hockey teams, from rec to the NHL, need captains who lead, not ones who want to run away.

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