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. Five reasons why Kentucky can beat Florida for the first time since 1986


    By Matt Baker

    GAINESVILLE — Florida's 30-game winning streak over Kentucky is one of the most impressive feats in the country.

    Florida Gators offensive lineman Martez Ivey (73) celebrates Florida Gators running back Mark Thompson's  (24) touch down in the first quarter, putting Florida on the board 6-0 during the game between the University of Florida and the University of Kentucky in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Kentucky 45-7. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times

  2. Once targeted by the Bucs, Dalvin Cook thrills for the Vikings


    How good would the Bucs be with running back Dalvin Cook?

    Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) slips a tackle by Steelers strong safety Sean Davis (28) to score a touchdown Sunday in Pittsburgh. [AP photo]
  3. Boxer LaMotta, immortalized in 'Raging Bull,' dies at 95


    MIAMI — Jake LaMotta, the former middleweight champion whose life in and out of the ring was depicted in the film Raging Bull, for which Robert DeNiro won an Academy Award, has died, his fiancee said Wednesday. He was 95.

    Jake LaMotta, retired professional boxer, shakes hands with Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) on the field before the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15, 2015. LaMotta was on hand to sign autographs in the Ted Williams Museum.
  4. J.R. Sweezy shows what Bucs were missing


    By Greg Auman

    TAMPA —- Sunday's season-opening win against the Bears saw the debut of 13 Bucs, a mix of rookies and free-agent veterans.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive guard J.R. Sweezy (73), seen at center, runs through drills during training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, July 31, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 

  5. Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Vikings features a battle of top rookies


    Greg Auman looks at how much the Bucs have changed since the last time they played the Minnesota Vikings in 2014 in our latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard (80) makes a reception as Chicago Bears free safety Eddie Jackson (39) tackles him Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]