BOSTON, MA - Bruins fans know the toughness of Steven Stamkos well.
Accustomed to seeing the grit and fight of those in the Black & Gold, the Tampa Bay Lightning centerman hit a cord when he returned during Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Final, after taking a puck to the face. He wiped off the blood, threw on the full cage and was back on the ice, battling for his team.
Sometimes, a player can not only impact his team, but the entire game.
So, when Steven Stamkos broke his right tibia during the Bruins-Lightning game on Monday afternoon at TD Garden, the impact reverberated throughout the crowd, and the hockey world.
"It’s obviously tough to see him go down, not only for our team. That's one of the best players in the world," said Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper. "People come to cheer on the Boston Bruins here, but they also come to see guys like Steven Stamkos play hockey. So it’s a loss for everybody."
At 12:49 into the second period of the B's eventual 3-0 win over the Lightning, Steven Stamkos crashed hard into his own goal.
After initially trying to get up and skate it off, Stamkos went down to the ice and showed a tremendous amount of pain, as trainers tended to him.
It was hard for everyone to watch. It brought the Garden crowd to silence and both benches into concern.
Stamkos had been backchecking hard, trying to gain a step and slow down Dougie Hamilton who had jumped up into the play to drive the net, when his right leg collided with the post.
After an extended time on the ice, the NHL's leading scorer was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher and taken to a local Boston hospital for X-Rays. The crowd gave a roar of support for the centerman. You could have heard a pin drop before that moment.
One of the game's stars, Stamkos doesn't just score; he takes pride in his all-around game and plays hard at both ends.
"I was just trying to drive the net and he was too fast for me, so he caught me and I guess we both just went to the net, and then I don’t know what happened," said Hamilton. "He fell and then hit the post pretty hard. It’s unfortunate and kind of sad to see that happen."
"I was just trying to go to the net strong and hopefully get a rebound, and it was unfortunate."
The replays were all over TV and across websites and social media following Stamkos' collision in to the post. Every time you saw it, you cringed; not only for the injury, but for the player.
One of the 'faces' of the NHL, Stamkos is a well-respected player and teammate who 'plays the game the right way,' as his peers often say.
"I don’t like to see that to anybody," said Gregory Campbell, who who had months of his own recovery following his broken fibula last June amidst the postseason. He's still pushing to get to 100 percent.
"I have a lot of respect for him, but whether it’s him or somebody else, injuries are tough, tough to come back from."
"It’s definitely a long road and I wish him the best, but it’s a part of the game that is not a positive thing, and especially with one of the key faces of the game and somebody that’s so respected, and such a good player, has a lot to offer to the league and to his team."
As much as he's respected for his play, fans, media, coaches and players alike all know what type of quality person he is off the ice as well.
"This game is built on guys like that who have tremendous skills, that are good leaders and everything else," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien.
"I don’t care whether he’s on another team or not, a player like that is who people pay to come and watch. And when you see a player like that, you don’t like seeing that, even as an opposing coach."
There was obvious concern from the bench boss, and B's locker room after the game. An injury like that, on your team or otherwise, is always a loss.
"I wish him the best. He’s becoming the face of the game now; one of the key faces of the NHL, and you know, an Olympic year – a lot of things that are negative about it for his own personal game it’s unfortunate," said Campbell. "Injuries do happen, it’s something that you have to come to expect, unfortunately, but like I said, it’s the beginning of a long process when you get injured."
"He’s an important player to his team and to the league, but he’s a strong guy, I know he works hard, and I’m sure he’ll be back stronger than ever."
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