Steven Stamkos has played for the Tampa Bay Lightning since being drafted in 2008, making him the longest tenured player still in the organization. Victor Hedman is a close second, being drafted #2 overall by the Bolts the following year.
Tampa fans have grown accustomed to seeing their chemistry on the ice, but what about their relationship off the ice? Are they acquaintances or close friends?
The summer of 2016 was a defining moment in Tampa Bay Lightning history. Steven Stamkos elected to renew his contract and stay with the Bolts for eight more years. Victor Hedman followed suit and also signed on for eight more years. Both players spoke extensively about their belief in Tampa’s ability to succeed and how much they enjoy living in this city.
During that summer, an interesting fact surfaced: Stamkos and Hedman are close friends. That makes sense since they’ve played together for several years, but it’s never something that either of them have really discussed in the past. The drama and suspense around Stamkos’ decision this summer led to a ton of articles and interviews about the captain, including some revelations about his relationship with Hedman.
In the days leading up to Stamkos’ decision to stay in Tampa, very few people knew where he would be headed next. One of those lucky few? Victor Hedman
Owner Jeff Vinik, who never gets involved in contract negotiations, made a few courting calls to Stamkos and got "minute-by-minute, play-by-play updates" from Yzerman. "We didn't know (what Stamkos would do), " Vinik said.
Victor Hedman did... The two have been best friends for years, Stamkos and Hedman growing up together since getting drafted as 18-year-olds, Nos. 1 and 2 overall in 2008 and '09, respectively. It's no surprise Hedman got a few hours' heads-up in a text message from Stamkos: "I'm staying."
Less than forty-eight hours after Stamkos inked his extension, Hedman followed suit.
“For me, there was never a doubt,” Hedman said Friday on a call. “Staying in Tampa was the number one priority.”
“We’re a close group,” he said. “I played with Stammer now for seven years. Obviously we keep in touch. It’s big decisions for both of us. It all came down to both of us wanting to stay and be in Tampa. [Stamkos signing] made [my] decision way easier. We want to keep a competitive group and have a competitive team. Moving forward it’s going to be important for everyone to buy into that.”
“Me and Stammer, we want to win together,” he said. “I want to be a Bolt for a very long time.”
Stamkos sounded elated that he’d continue to share the ice with one of his closest friends for at least the next eight years.
"Victor and I are extremely close friends," Stamkos said. "We came up in this organization as 18-year-old kids. To say that we're going to be together for the long run, and on one team, that's something special. We have talked a lot throughout this process. I joke with him that sometimes I forget the time difference [with Sweden] and I'm calling him at 4 in the morning. But he's always getting back to me as quick as he can. It was extremely exciting to see him sign. A big reason why both of us stuck around is because of the relationship that we have as teammates and as friends as well."
Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman are the foundation of this team. Their work ethic and commitment will shape the Lightning for years to come.
Steve Yzerman: “Mostly for us, it’s creating that stability. Both of them fit what we’re really trying to do. High-character people, good guys that work hard; they’re very professional. That’s important - to go on top of being very good hockey players. But these are the kind of guys we want to build this organization around.”
It is really rare to see the type of loyalty displayed by Stamkos and Hedman. They both took considerable discounts to stay with the organization that drafted them. They both want to lift a Stanley Cup here in Tampa - and they want to do it together.
For now, we await Steven Stamkos’ return to the ice as he continues to make progress in his recovery from surgery. Whenever he’s ready, Hedman will be waiting to set him up for some more spectacular goals.