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NHL All-Star Game: Steven Stamkos’ one-in-a-lifetime weekend

Here's how the face of the Lightning franchise and the unofficial host of NHL All-Star Weekend spent the last three days.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) Atlantic Division All-Stars raises his sick to salute the fans before leaving the ice after being defeated by the Pacific Division All-Stars in the finals during the final NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena in Tampa Sunday (01/28/18). Also pictured is Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand (63) and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov (86). DIRK SHADD   |   Times
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) Atlantic Division All-Stars raises his sick to salute the fans before leaving the ice after being defeated by the Pacific Division All-Stars in the finals during the final NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena in Tampa Sunday (01/28/18). Also pictured is Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand (63) and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov (86). DIRK SHADD | Times
Published Jan. 29, 2018|Updated Jan. 29, 2018

TAMPA — Steven Stamkos arrived backstage in style, wearing a slick burgandy suit and white dress shirt. No tie.

And it didn't take long for his childhood friend to rib him about it. Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban, the charismatic host of the Fitz & the Tantrums concert Friday night at Curtis Hixon Park, was casually hip in his black-and-white t-shirt, jeans and black cowboy hat.

"A suit?" Subban yelled.

"Buddy, I've been everywhere today," Stamkos said. "I wanted to look good… You're just jealous I look better than you."

Stamkos was everywhere during NHL All-Star Weekend as the face of the Lightning franchise and the event's unofficial host.

And he did look good.

Stamkos took selfies backstage with opening act Moon Taxi at Friday's show, joking with Subban on stage. There were multiple autograph and media sessions, a red-carpet stroll, a hangout at Victor Hedman's and dinner with his folks.

Never mind the two hockey events Stamkos participated in during Saturday's Skills Competition, and the main event, Sunday's All Star Game, with Stamkos' Atlantic Division team losing in the final to the Pacific.

Tired, Steven?

"Yeah, a little bit," Stamkos said. "But for me, personally, with some injuries I've had, you just never know what's going to happen, so you cherish these moments when you're done. At the end of your career, you look back at something like this and realize how special it is, and this one in particular will certainly be that way."

Stamkos said it was too hard to pick a favorite moment. He got a charge out of how the sellout crowd of 19,092 cheered during each of the four Lightning players introductions.

Stamkos got emotional when former Lightning forward Brian Boyle received a standing ovation. And Stamkos got wowed when teammate Nikita Kucherov tallied a dazzling hat trick Sunday.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said NHL executive VP Steve Mayer. "Unless he plays for another 20 years, this is his one and only chance to host an All-Star Game in his career. It's a great experience. I can't imagine what it's like for a player. Everywhere he goes, he's the all stars of all stars for the weekend."

***

Stamkos got back to Tampa at 2 a.m. Friday after the team's charter flight from Philadelphia. There was no time for rest. He was scheduled to appear by 1 p.m. at Brandon's Ice Sports Forum for a youth hockey tournament. Stamkos signed the kids' jerseys, posed for photos with fellow All-Star teammates Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Later that afternoon, Stamkos went to an event for Chase, one of the Lightning's main sponsors, and then signed autographs at the NHL  Pregame event outside Amalie. That didn't leave much time to get to Curtis Hixon Park for the 8 p.m. concert. Stamkos used a car service, spending most of his time backstage with Subban, Brayden Point and former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk.

Oh, and some pirates.

Stamkos put some lighted beads around his neck, listening to Subban get the crowd of more than 11,000 pumped up. Subban first brought up Andreychuk. Point came next. Then came Stamkos.

"You got a great one here," Subban told the crowd. "He took less money to stay. If you love your captain, love your leader, you love the face of your franchise, this is your time to show it."

RELATED: How Steven Stamkos became Mr. Tampa

The crowd erupted. Stamkos took the mic.

"This is our home," Stamkos said., "We love you guys. This city deserves an All-Star Game."

As Stamkos exited backstage, he paused to pull out his Iphone and take a picture of the lit-up University of Tampa campus, which was across the water.

"That's nice," he said.

***

Stamkos left the stage spotlight and spent some quiet time Friday at one of the spots where he feels the most comfortable: Hedman's Davis Islands home.

Stamkos, who is building a house in the neighborhood, joined Hedman, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson and former Lightning center Valtteri Filppula, who was in town from Philadelphia.

"Just a low-key time," Hedman said. "The crew was back together. It was fun."

They ordered pizza. Quipped Karlsson: "Chef Hedman."

Stamkos also grabbed a late dinner Saturday with some family, including his father Chris, one of a handful who made the trip from his hometown near Toronto.

"We didn't see him very much," Chris said. "But we get it. It comes with the territory."

RELATED: The Lightning and Steven Stamkos have regained their swagger

Stamkos didn't win either of his events at Saturday's Skills Competition (hardest shot, shot accuracy). He didn't score a goal in either of the two games Sunday, though he had several assists.

His city shined. So did Stamkos. Before he left the ice one final time Sunday, Stamkos raised his stick and spun around to the crowd.

"It was a busy weekend, but it was fun," Stamkos said. "And you'd do it all again in a heartbeat."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow@TBTimes_JSmith.

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