1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Lightning

Steven Stamkos will not play as Lightning have chance to claim Stanley Cup

Injuries have taken opportunities away from Tampa Bay’s captain before.
Steven Stamkos played in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, but he will not be in the lineup as the Lightning look to win the Cup Saturday night.
Steven Stamkos played in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, but he will not be in the lineup as the Lightning look to win the Cup Saturday night. [ MARKO DITKUN | Special to the Times ]
Published Sep. 26, 2020|Updated Sep. 26, 2020

The Lightning have to take their shot at the Stanley Cup without their captain.

After five years of trying to get back to the Stanley Cup final, Steven Stamkos' team is in position to win the coveted trophy for the first time in his career. But he couldn’t play.

Tampa Bay made it to this ultimate series in 2015, but never had a chance to clinch. This time is different.

Related: Steven Stamkos' return to play was brief, but had a storybook element

Coach Jon Cooper confirmed the team would be without Stamkos before Saturday’s Game 5. With that knowledge, Stamkos' comments after his brief appearance in Game 3 carry a tone of finality.

“It was just an amazing experience to share with my teammates,” he said.

And later: “I’ve watched these guys be so committed to what our end goal is, and to be part of it was a dream come true. I’m so proud of these guys to be able to share that moment with them.”

Playing fewer than three minutes in one game of the playoffs is not the dream for a first overall pick, for the player around which a franchise was built or for the captain of a team that has made four deep playoff runs in six years. Even if he did score a goal and have an impact.

That night, the only time he has addressed the media during the playoffs, Stamkos said it was too early to tell if he was done. On Friday, Cooper said the team wasn’t ruling Stamkos out for the rest of the series.

“We need to get another win,” Cooper said. “Stammer, he was a big part of us getting this far both off the ice and what he contributed when he played. But for (Game 5), he won’t be in.”

This isn’t the first time an injury has taken away an opportunity for Stamkos.

Related: If the hour is late, the Lightning must be breaking hearts

Other than the Stanley Cup, the biggest piece of hardware missing from Stamkos' trophy case is a gold medal. He missed out on that one because of a broken leg in 2014.

Stamkos was named to Team Canada while recovering from a gruesome injury he incurred when he slid hard into the post early that season and had to be stretchered off the ice.

He hadn’t returned to the Lightning lineup in late January but said he still thought there was a chance to play in the Olympics. That wasn’t the case, however. The Canadians went on to win gold without him.

In 2016, Stamkos missed most of the playoffs due to a blood clot, and he returned just in time for the Lightning to be eliminated in the Eastern Conference final.

He also tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee and missed 65 games of the 2016-17 season, but it was one of many injuries for the Lightning that year and the team missed the playoffs.

Now, the core muscle repair surgery that was originally estimated to take six to eight weeks of recovery has required more than seven months. And Stamkos has mostly been forced into the role of cheerleader, except for those three minutes and one glorious goal of Game 3.

Follow all the action on and off the ice

Follow all the action on and off the ice

Subscribe to our free Lightning Strikes newsletter

We’ll send you news, analysis and commentary on the Bolts weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at Follow @dianacnearhos on Twitter.


This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge