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Singing his praises

The hockey world has hailed the Lightning's Martin St. Louis all season. Tonight, it might crescendo with MVP awards.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published June 10, 2004

TORONTO - He could sing. Well, he thought he could, anyway.

Martin St. Louis said he remembers being so sure singing would be his life's work, he made bold statements to his grandmother.

St. Louis was 5 years old.

A week later, St. Louis changed his mind and told everyone he was going to play in the NHL.

"I knew what I wanted," St. Louis said.

And look what he has done.

The kid from Laval, Quebec, is one of the NHL's brightest stars. And if things go as many believe, St. Louis today will receive the Hart Trophy and Pearson Award as the league's most valuable player.

Other finalists for the Hart, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and presented at the Metro Toronto Convention Center, are Flames captain Jarome Iginla and Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.

Other finalists for the Pearson, voted on by the players and presented earlier at the Hall of Fame, are Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo and Avalanche captain Joe Sakic.

St. Louis and teammate Brad Richards are up for the Lady Byng Trophy, given for sportsmanship. Captain Dave Andreychuk is up for the Masterton Award, given for perseverance and dedication to the game. And John Tortorella is up for the Adams Award, given to the outstanding coach, for which he was runnerup last season.

But St. Louis, 28, is up for the biggies. He wants to talk about them as much as he wants to belt out a solo rendition of O Canada. "It's a team game," he said. "You don't want to put too much attention on yourself. It's what we do as a team. I'm proud of what I accomplished. I just don't like talking about it."

It was a remarkable season for St. Louis. He led the Lightning with 38 goals, the league with 94 points and was tied for the league lead with 56 assists and at plus-35.

St. Louis and Richards also were named to play for Canada in this summer's World Cup tournament.

Iginla might be the world's best player.

But no player meant more to his team than St. Louis, who in 35 games from Jan. 3 to March 12 had 23 goals, 33 assists and was plus-31 as Tampa Bay went 26-3-2-4 and broke out of an awful month-long slump.

"As a player, you try to build every day," St. Louis said. "I know players' games sometimes go up and down, but I want to make sure my game stays up as long as I can."

That is why St. Louis is as intense in practice as he is during games and said he sometimes has trouble leaving the game at the rink.

Eric Perrin has seen that single-mindedness as St. Louis' friend in Laval and his teammate at the University of Vermont and with the Lightning.

Perrin said when St. Louis was 16, he decided to buy a car. In three years, working at a hockey school and for pool and lumber companies, St. Louis saved $8,000 and bought a Honda Civic hatchback.

"He focuses on one exact thing, and he doesn't stop focusing," Perrin said. "It's just in his character.

"When it was just between us, that's what he would say all the time. "I'm going to be in the NHL.' As we got older, it didn't stop. It was, "I'm going to be in the NHL. Nobody is going to stop me.' That's the attitude he's taken throughout his career."

He will need it next season.

"He knows maybe there will be more focus on him than this year as far as the battles and the guys checking him and everything," Perrin said.

"That's why he knows he's going to have to work twice as hard next year in order to have the same kind of success. He's not the kind of guy to back down from that kind of thing."

But even St. Louis realizes that after winning a Stanley Cup championship, it's time to take a breath. Maybe even think about himself.

"This year has been overwhelming," he said. "My son (Ryan) was born on June 13. I won the scoring title. It's pretty overwhelming stuff to be named to the Canadian team. And to win the Cup, you couldn't write it any better."

Or sing it.

"No," St. Louis said, "I'm not that good."

[Last modified June 10, 2004, 17:17:03]

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