Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning's Steven Stamkos clear to focus on hockey, starting with World Cup

Lightning forward and captain Steven Stamkos is representing Canada in the World Cup of Hockey after missing the past two Olympics. He missed the Sochi games in 2014 after breaking his leg the previous November.

Getty Images

Lightning forward and captain Steven Stamkos is representing Canada in the World Cup of Hockey after missing the past two Olympics. He missed the Sochi games in 2014 after breaking his leg the previous November.

TORONTO — The last time Canada faced the United States with significant stakes, Steven Stamkos was on the beach in the Cayman Islands.

Stamkos, 26, a Markham, Ontario native, didn't even watch the 2014 Sochi Olympics semifinal on TV.

"I needed time and space away from everything," he said.

Stamkos, left off the 2010 Olympic team, was crushed he couldn't participate in Sochi. He went through an aggressive, grueling rehab from a broken right leg, suffered in November 2013, and felt ready. But the doctors said no. Stamkos watch the gold medal victory and was proud. The team gave him a ring.

"It was bittersweet," he said.

That's what makes this World Cup of Hockey, including tonight's showdown against the United States (8, ESPN), especially meaningful to Stamkos. Finally, Stamkos gets to wear his country's sweater in a best-on-best tournament, and in his hometown in front of family and friends.

"This was something I was really looking forward to ever since, really, the Olympic dream was over," Stamkos said. "When I was named to the team, it was something that was definitely circled on the calendar."

So when Stamkos was diagnosed with a blood clot in his collarbone in late March, it was a here-we-go-again moment. Not again. Stamkos tirelessly worked to rejoin the Lightning playoff run, skating with the team for several weeks, "just in case."

All along, this World Cup was one of his motivators.

"This is always in the back of your mind," Stamkos said.

Stamkos said there was a chance to return for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final against the Penguins. The hope was for the Lightning, up 3-2 in the series, to finish Pittsburgh off at home so Stamkos could come back for the Stanley Cup final. Tampa Bay lost, forcing Game 7.

"As soon as we lost Game 6, I knew I was going to try to come back," he said.

The center was cleared by his surgeon, but it was up to Stamkos to weigh the risks and make the call. Stamkos, then still on blood thinners, got 11:55 of ice time in a season-ending loss.

"You've got to make your own decision,' Stamkos said. "It was a big mental thing for me in the summer that I came back and played and felt pretty good. It was reassuring."

No longer on blood thinners, Stamkos said he feels "night and day" better on the ice now than during Game 7, thanks to a summer of training. "A little better than I thought I'd be," he said. Stamkos is mentally freed of a contract saga that ended June 29 when he re-signed with Tampa Bay for an eight-year, $68 million deal.

And Stamkos has been assured the blood clot won't re-occur. Hockey can be his only focus.

"It's kind of a clean slate," Stamkos said. "As much as you say you're not putting that pressure on yourself or not having any distractions, it was tough. But that's life, and I knew the situation I was in. It's something you go through, learn from it, it makes you stronger mentally. Definitely there's a sense of, not a fresh start, but going in there with nothing on your mind other than what you have to do to help my team win. And that's exciting."

Before the Stanley Cup, it's the World Cup. Stamkos is playing right wing alongside the Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf and the Islanders' John Tavares. They had chances in Saturday's tournament opener, Stamkos picking up an assist.

"We were kind of joking that hopefully we're saving them for the big moments," he said.

Maybe even tonight.

Contact Joe Smith at Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Lightning's Steven Stamkos clear to focus on hockey, starting with World Cup 09/19/16 [Last modified: Monday, September 19, 2016 11:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tim Tebow Week: 12 stories from his Tampa Bay tour


    Alas, Tim Tebow Week — eight baseball games in eight nights that reunited Tebow with his Tampa Bay friends and admirers — is over. The fun ended Thursday night.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow meets fans and signs autographs before the beginning of the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 in Clearwater. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times

  2. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars


    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  3. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half



    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.
  4. Rays journal: Archer has strong outing, with two mistakes

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Two pitches RHP Chris Archer didn't execute are the ones that stood out Thursday as Josh Donaldson hit them out of the park. But the two solo home runs aside, Archer turned in a sterling outing that went atop the pile of good pitching the Rays keep wasting.

    Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) works during the first inning. [Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP]
  5. Tim Tebow continues wowing fans as he wraps up bay area games


    CLEARWATER — Tracey Fritzinger has seen Tim Tebow play baseball a few times this year. The 40-year-old St. Petersburg resident went to two of his games against the Tampa Yankees, along with Joy, her little sister from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow, middle, hangs out in the dugout during Thursday night’s game against the Clearwater Threshers at Spectrum Field, the last of St. Lucie’s eight-day trip to the Tampa Bay area.