As Steven Stamkos celebrated the Lightning’s Stanley Cup win, he referred to an emotional six weeks on the ice in the playoffs and in his family.
Stamkos expanded on that in an interview with Erik Erlendsson of lightninginsider.com last week. At one point he left the playoff bubble in Toronto to be with his wife, Sandra, who had been pregnant with the couple’s second child but miscarried at 21 weeks.
A couple of references to high emotions and tough times were all Stamkos had said up to that point. As much as he has shared his life with Lightning fans, he has kept his family private. He hadn’t said anything about the pregnancy, nor had he publicized the birth of their son, Carter, in July 2019.
During the Lightning’s first-round series against the Blue Jackets, Stamkos got a call from Sandra that something was wrong. He left Hotel X in Toronto to go to their home outside the city and spent three weeks there. Stamkos rejoined the team in Edmonton on Sept. 7, the day the Eastern Conference final started.
“It was probably the lowest point in our lives,” Stamkos told Erlendsson. “For me, for sure, just emotionally, I’ve never felt those feelings that I felt having to go through that. It was just devastating for my family, and no one really knew about it, and we just kind of kept it to ourselves.”
He said he appreciated the support of the team and that everyone kept things quiet.
While in the bubble, the Lightning dodged questions about Stamkos, who had core muscle surgery March 2 and had been rehabilitating when a new ailment took him back off the ice. They weren’t disclosing details about the injury or his involvement with the team.
Stamkos had a second core muscle surgery this month.
During the playoffs, players spoke in general terms about what Stamkos meant to them as a group, praising his leadership without offering examples. Coach Jon Cooper at one point got terse, saying it was pointless to keep asking about Stamkos.
The team’s official stance was to neither confirm nor deny that all their players were present in the bubble.
The Lightning tweeted video of players, including Stamkos, celebrating the five-overtime win over the Blue Jackets to open the playoffs Aug. 11. There were no Stamkos sightings after that until he started skating again Sept. 14.
Stamkos' only playing time in the playoffs was 2:47 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final against the Stars, and he scored on his only shot in the Lightning win. On that play, he damaged the core muscle he had been rehabilitating. Emotion was heavy in his voice as he spoke about the playoff experience being a dream come true.
Emotions were even stronger after they won the Cup.
“He’s battling through things that you can’t imagine,” said defenseman Victor Hedman, whose wife, Sanna, was also pregnant. “There’s a reason he’s one of the best captains in the world and one of the best persons there is.”
Sandra and Carter were waiting for Stamkos with the rest of the Lightning families when the team arrived in Tampa from Edmonton with the Cup on Sept. 29.
“It’s a story of you never really know what’s going to happen in life, so you really don’t know what people are going through on an individual day or basis,” Stamkos told Erlendsson. “So just treat everyone with the kind of love and respect that you want to be treated with. At the same time, if things aren’t going great, you never know when they’re going to turn.”
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