St. Louis, Stamkos, Yzerman all winners with Team Canada's announcement
FEB 06, 2014 5:47p ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Marty St. Louis is a proud man, and proud men handle the news he received Wednesday with tact, if not with a full understanding of the moment's meaning.
Then, he was told he will go to the Olympics to represent Canada, replacing Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos. The invite is one the timeless veteran should have been offered in January when the roster was announced.
Sometimes, life has a way of working itself out, awkward scenarios placed in the past after unpredictable intervention. This feels like one of those moments, to the relief of St. Louis and Steve Yzerman, the men caught in the middle of this strange straddle between the Lightning and Team Canada.
Turns out, the dark cloud of the Stamkos news that broke Wednesday evening -- Tampa Bay's release was titled, "STEVEN STAMKOS NOT CLEARED FOR GAME PARTICIPATION" -- included a silver lining that makes each major party involved in this matter a winner.
St. Louis, for obvious reasons, can place his snub's bitter taste behind him.
Yzerman, for public and private reasons, can begin to smooth the hard edges with St. Louis that the initial Team Canada roster announcement must have caused.
Stamkos, for personal reasons, can be confident that his recovery will be complete when he returns to the Lightning from a broken right tibia -- even though the sting of missing the Sochi games could linger.
"It's a great opportunity for me," St. Louis said Thursday at Tampa Bay Times Forum, shortly after news of Team Canada choosing him as Stamkos' replacement became public. "Obviously, I've worked hard for this. I feel terrible for Stammer that he's in this situation. Obviously, Canada is going to miss him. ... I'm going to try there and do the best I can."
It's a safe bet St. Louis will give Team Canada his all in his second Olympics. Back in 2006 in Turin, he was part of the team that lived an early exit with a quarterfinals loss to Russia. He knows how fleeting the chance can be to represent his hockey-crazed homeland.
This could be it for him. At age 38, St. Louis is not getting younger, of course. Though he never said so in the days after Team Canada passed over him, he had to be aware that the window to represent his country was becoming small.
This situation showed how St. Louis and Stamkos reside on opposite ends of the opportunity spectrum. St. Louis is in the twilight of his resilient career, while Stamkos -- only 23 years old -- is sure to create many more memories in the decade to come if he stays healthy.
One is nearing the point where he must think about life beyond the rink. The other will become more dynamic, more dangerous, in time. The game moves on.
"I'm very excited for Marty," Stamkos said. "If there was going to be anyone that deserved a spot on that team, I think everyone in our locker room can attest to that he probably deserved to be on the team since Day One."
This doesn't take away what happened after St. Louis was left off the roster the first time. In hearing him speak Thursday, tucked in a small room near the rink before a large crowd of local and Canadian media, it was clear his wound remains.
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Perhaps it will become a scar, a tale to tell when he analyzes his career one day, when he takes stock of all he did rising from an undrafted prospect to a staple of Tampa Bay's history. The past month, whatever his result in Russia, will stand as a memory.
"Of course, I was bitter," St. Louis said. "I've answered this question before, 'Was I motivated?' I don't think it's motivation. I've been motivated the past four years, the past 10 years. If you're not motivated, you're not even considered for these things."
Still, there's caution to consider with this development. St. Louis will be asked to perform at an elite level on a grueling stage, rather than rest for Tampa Bay's post-Olympics playoffs push.
There's risk of fatigue and injury. Both are possibilities on any given day.
But it's hard to look past the announcement's symmetry. St. Louis received what he wanted, albeit later than anticipated. Yzerman avoided the strange scenario of passing over his Tampa Bay captain twice for Team Canada. Stamkos was hopeful for a return to the NHL before traveling to Russia, but with deeper perspective, a decision to continue rehab for two to three weeks in Florida before more evaluation is the smartest choice for him.
"He understands this is a big blow to a dream of his," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said of Stamkos. "But he's not letting that get in the way of his comeback."
For many within the Lightning, this is a time for comebacks: For St. Louis, now Olympics-bound; for Yzerman, who will still see one of his own try to play for a gold medal; and for Stamkos, who nears a return after that scary November afternoon in Boston.
This week should be memorable for all three men ... especially for the proud one who wanted to play for gold all along.