A conversation with Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos
Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos skated for the first time at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. Most striking was his blond hair which he grew long so it stuck out the back of his helmet. Beyond that, Stamkos spoke about a short summer, how there was never a doubt he would re-sign with the Lightning and how he likes the league's tougher rules on head shots, though he still believes, ultimately, only the players can eliminate malicious ones from the game.
On his first skate: It was a good summer but we’re back to business now. The first day back at the rink and getting to see the guys again, it’s always fun.
On the team: We're not going to be able to surprise anyone this year. Teams are going to be ready. We can't take any games off. You're thought of as one of the top teams."
On last summer's contract negotiations: Internally between myself, my family, my agent and Mr. Yzerman and Mr. Vinik and the organization, we knew it was going to get done. It was just grinding out the details. For me, it was a new experience. It was interesting. But all-in-all we knew we were going to get something done.
On a tough second half of last season: After the All-Star break it didn’t go as well as I wanted it to, personally, when you look at the stats. But I think I grew as a player. I think my overall game, you realize you have to work hard throughout the season. There were times looking back last year, whether it’s getting that extra workout in off the ice or getting some more rest, stuff like that, things you learn through your career. There are always situations where you look back and say I should have done that and should have done this. That’s how you learn. If you go through everything smooth you’re never going to learn how to deal with those situations when they come so I think last year was a good combination of going through a really big high at the beginning of the year in the first half and doing really well and kind of grinding it out a bit in the second but working at my overall game. That improved a lot. And getting the first taste of the playoffs, that’s going to help you a lot.
On re-igniting his scoring touch: It’s there, but going through that I’ve learned what to do when you’re in those situations, and even in the summer I was watching some of those games when you’re struggling a little bit and you learn from it. That’s all you can do, so now you know how to deal with those things. … It’s a lot about confidence and I feel confident with the work I did over the summer, and skill-set wise we had a great run last year and I just want to build on that and help this team get to a championship.
On keeping the hair: I doubt it but we’ll see.
On players being accountable for head shots: At the end of the day I'm not saying every one of those hits that resulted in a concussions was avoidable. It's going to happen. It’s a contact sport its so fast you’re going to get them. But in order to minimize them I think as a player you have to be aware of the situation on the ice. We’re trying with the head shot rule. I don’t know what other rules you can put in to prevent it. Guys have to be responsible. ... You look at some of the head shots, guys are blatantly putting their elbows up. A guy’s back is turned and you hit him into the boards. That comes down to common sense. We all know how to deliver a clean body check. You have to be accountable for your actions on the ice. With some of the suspensions getting a little steeper, guys are going to realize that if they do that, they’re not going to get away with it.
On a standard for head-shot suspensions: I just don’t think it should matter whether a guy gets hurt or not. If it’s a shot to the head, it shouldn’t depend on if a guy is out with a concussion and misses a year or if he’s out for that shift. It should be standard. You get hit in the head, it's a head shot and you have to deal with it.
On the new Rule 48, which penalizes hits in which the head is "targeted or the principal point of contact": I agree with that. I think that's a great rule. That’s a start. Now, it has to fall upon us as players to be accountable. That’s not going to change. You have to be aware on the ice. ... We’ve tried changing the rules and it's still happening, so guys have to be more responsible.