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)

Stamkos bouncing back strong


In the dark days following the gruesome injury that just about snapped his right tibia in two, Lightning star Steven Stamkos felt it all.

Pain. Frustration. Helplessness. Anger.

But one emotion pretty much summed it up.

"Miserable," Stamkos said.

It was pure agony just to go to the restroom, or get a drink from the kitchen. Just sitting up took all his might.

"I couldn't even lift my own leg off the bed," Stamkos said. "It just felt like my leg was dead. And there was a lot of pain."

Forget hockey. Stamkos only wished to feel normal again.

But slowly and miserably, the days passed, and here he was Monday — exactly two weeks from when he crashed into the goal post in Boston and broke his leg — incredibly walking without the aid of a crutch, cane or walking boot. And, believe it or not, he's talking about playing hockey again. This season.

"That's the goal and, hopefully, that's the reality when it's all said and done," Stamkos said in his first public comments since the injury.

A return this season seems miraculous. Two weeks ago today, doctors hammered a steel rod into his lower leg and secured it into place with screws.

Yet, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said Monday: "I think there's a very good chance you'll see him this season. I'm expecting that. I don't know exactly when, but I'm expecting him back."

The initial prognosis was Stamkos would miss three to six months, but Yzerman said, "Barring any unforeseen setbacks, I think it's reasonable to say he could be on the earlier side of that."

Hard to believe when you think back to that Monday afternoon in Boston.

Stamkos remembers every detail. He remembers back-checking toward his own goal. He remembers Boston's Dougie Hamilton giving him a little shove just as they approached the net. He remembers thinking "Uh-oh" as he sped toward the post with no way to stop.

And after the crash, after Stamkos tried to skate and actually felt the bone moving inside his skin, he crumbled to the ice and began pounding it with his fist.

Not because of the pain of breaking his leg, but because he knew what a broken leg meant.

Stamkos was leading the NHL in scoring. The Lightning was in first place. He was a lock to play in the upcoming Olympics for his native Canada.

All of it felt crushed like dust.

"I remember, especially being on the stretcher, all of that kind of going through my head," Stamkos said. "It's tough. You know that something is wrong and you're going to miss an extended period of time."

Even before surgery, Stamkos said he pinched himself, hoping it would wake him up from his worst nightmare. A day after surgery, Stamkos tried to stand. Still woozy from the medication and yet still in excruciating pain, Stamkos said he thought: "I just want to climb back into bed and there's no way I'll be walking anytime soon."

But after a few days of feeling that misery and watching replays of the injury over and over, Stamkos set his sights on his recovery.

"I think I surprised myself with how positive and upbeat I've tried to be," Stamkos said.

He has received plenty of support. Lightning fans gave him a rousing ovation when he walked onto the ice during Monday's pregame ceremonies celebrating Marty St. Louis' 1,000th NHL game. Teammates, friends and family, of course, have reached out to Stamkos. But it was the reaction from all of hockey that shows just how respected he is.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara sent Stamkos a text on behalf of the Boston players, wishing him a speedy recovery. Bruins coach Claude Julien visited Stamkos in the hospital.

"I thought that was pretty classy," Stamkos said.

So now what?

Under the care of the Lightning medical team, Stamkos has begun daily rehabilitation.

For as exciting as this all sounds, the truth is Stamkos remains a long way from playing. Yes, he was walking Monday, but he was doing so with a heavy limp. It's still hard to picture him skating with a 230-pound defenseman leaning on him.

Yzerman, also the GM of the Canadian Olympic team, said the Lightning will not rush Stamkos back. The overall health of the 23-year-old is the priority, not the Lightning season and certainly not the Olympics.

Coach Jon Cooper said the Lightning's best plan is to act as if Stamkos is not coming back until he does come back.

Obviously, the Lightning needs him. Cooper thinks his absence costs the Lightning a goal a game. Let's be real: the Lightning is a postseason longshot without him.

That Monday two weeks ago was the worst day of the season for the Lightning. The best day will be the one when Stamkos returns … if he returns.

Monday? That was a good day.

Steps in the right direction.

Two weeks after surgery on his broken tibia, Steven Stamkos walks out to surprise Marty St. Louis in a pregame ceremony.


Two weeks after surgery on his broken tibia, Steven Stamkos walks out to surprise Marty St. Louis in a pregame ceremony.

Stamkos bouncing back strong 11/25/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 11:34am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Jake Odorizzi admitted he probably should have gone on the DL sooner than late July for the back stiffness that was keeping him from throwing the ball where he wanted to. He has since found an impressive groove, with another strong outing Saturday.

  4. Matt Baker's takeaways from Florida State-N.C. State


    RB Cam Akers still looks like a former high school quarterback at times. His first two touches (30 yards) were special, but the freshman juked instead of powering ahead on his third (an unsuccessful third-and-1 rush). That's why the Seminoles are easing him in, as they did with Dalvin Cook three years ago.

    Running back Cam Akers carries for a first down during the third quarter as FSU eases the freshman into the college game.
  5. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.