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91 Days of Stamkos: Day 91, we did it!

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Some thoughts on writing about one player every day for three months.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The question I got the most when I told people about this project was, “Why?” The second question was usually, “Do you think Steven Stamkos has read any of it?” To answer the second question first, “I have no idea, but I haven’t gotten a restraining order in the mail so I guess not.”

The first question’s answer is, this project was in part to be informative, and in part selfish. After it was apparent that Stamkos was going to be out for a long time and the Lightning were struggling, I thought it would be nice to remind Tampa fans (and myself) about all the things we love about his career. I thought it might provide some nice reminders through what was turning out to be a pretty dismal year.

Selfishly, I wanted to see if I could actually write every day for 3 months straight. As someone who lives a bit of a scattered life, it would be challenging for me to carve out 2-3 hours a day (ok, most days) to write, edit, and publish something worth reading. Also, I thought it would be cool if a Google search for “Steven Stamkos” would result in a page full of Raw Charge articles (a dream that was real until he started skating again and Big Media stepped in).

So, in late November or December I off-handedly pitched it to our editor in the middle of random discussion about the latest on-ice disaster. To my surprise not only did Acha say yes, she fully embraced the concept. If she had known I was coming into the project with a total of only six actual ideas planned out she may have been a little more hesitant. [Er. - Acha]

I picked the second of January as the start date mainly because math isn’t my strongest asset. I actually wanted this to end on April 1st. It wasn’t until I created a spreadsheet to plan out what I was going to write that I realized I was a day off. Oops. Either way, the schedule still lined up somewhat with Stamkos’ planned return. If we could keep the interest going until he was healthy, maybe we could make his absence a little easier to take.

In case you were wondering, the six topics I knew I wanted to write about were: the Melrose Era, the Make Them Forget Nike commercial, his training with Gary Roberts, the 2008 Draft, the goal in Anaheim, and the penalty shot where he fell down. That was it.

Luckily, one thing I found was that as I dug into one topic, a couple more would suggest themselves. The Nike commercial led to the drone hunting commercial, the training with Roberts led to the Steve Dangle video, and so on. Also, plotting them out on a spreadsheet in numerical order tied to dates helped as well. Post number 4 made sense to tie in with the greatest number 4 in Lightning history (it’s not Cory Cross). The same with Dave Andreychuk and Victor Hedman. Then it was nice to see Stamkos’ birthday fall during the project. That took another day off the list. The same with the trade deadline.

Other posts lined up. If I wanted to write about Stamkos coming back from his broken leg on March 6th to line up with the date he returned in 2014, that meant I had to write about him breaking his leg first. Boom, there’s another post.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

That being said, there were days where the well did run a little dry. To let you in on a secret, anytime there was a “This Day in Stamkos History” post meant that I couldn’t come up with a topic. The neat thing is that at some point in researching what happened on a particular day or in a particular game, something of note would inevitably pop up, or it would give me an idea for another post that would get me back on track.

There wasn’t much that I wanted to cover that wasn’t touched at some point. I purposely stayed away from any family or relationship ties, just because it seemed a topic that started down the road to Stalkerville. As affable as Stamkos is in most interviews, he does keep his private life quite quiet so to start digging around into that seemed wrong.

In the future I might turn back to a couple of half-written posts on topics I didn’t get to because something else fit better or I lost interest in the topic 200 words into it. One post I didn’t write because I thought I had overdosed on video breakdown posts was about Shawn Warford’s moment zero commercial, the pinnacle of Stamkos’ acting career to this date.

There were some things that I learned during this process:

  • The fact that Stamkos was still playing rec league baseball in the summer up until two years ago blew my mind. It’s one thing to go home and hang out with your high school friends during the summer, but to play in a rec league with a bunch of 9-to-5 working joes is awesome.
  • The amount of studying and research that Stamkos did when he broke his leg was impressive. I’m not sure I’d be able to watch the worst moment of my career over and over and over again. It does speak to how he handles tough situations — he is a meticulous information gatherer. So it should have been no surprise that he took as much time as he did to re-sign with the Bolts. He was busy exploring all avenues available to him and gathering every last scrap of information to help him make a decision.
  • Posts about injury updates get the most traffic. Ranking posts tend to do pretty good as well.
  • My work computer does not play well with the SBNation editor. There were some times that posts were almost delayed due to technical issues.
  • 91 doesn’t seem like a big number until you’ve written 40 posts and realize you’re not even halfway done.

Honestly, I don’t think I could have completed this without the help of the rest of the Raw Charge team. In the end I wrote 68 (Jagr!) of the posts in this series. The rest of team chipped in for the other 23. Without those mental breaks throughout the last three months I would have burned out halfway through. So big stick tap to Acha, Geo, loserpoints, Waffleboardsave, ElSeldo, and Saima for chipping in, and to everyone else that pitched ideas.

Also thank you to everyone that put up with me taking time to write these even if I was traveling with them. Posts have literally been written all over this country as I’ve filed them from Chicago, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and New Port Richey. Special thanks to my wife for keeping the “You’re writing about him AGAIN?” comments to a minimum and believing that watching YouTube videos counts as research.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks also go out to Damian Cristodero, Erik Erlendsson, Bryan Burns, Joe Smith and all of the other writers that covered the Lightning and supplied most of the source material I used for research. Many, many thanks to the Chicago Public Library for giving its members online access to the ProQuest newspaper archives. Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to find a lot of articles from Stamkos’ early years in the NHL.

Thank you to all of you who read the posts and commented. Special thanks to t.cann112, who not only provided an idea for a post, but consistently commented on the series through the entire run.

The one thing I take away from this project is that the Lightning have never had a player like Steven Stamkos. He came to the team as a highly-regarded 18-year-old kid and developed into exactly the type of superstar player that he was projected to be. That’s rare in sports. Hopefully this knee thing is the last on-ice issue he has to deal with for a long, long time, and he can get back to scoring goals at a ridiculous pace.

I really don’t want to end this post. Once I post it, that means it’s over. I hope that we accomplished what we set out to do, to keep you entertained while the fair-haired sniper from Markham was out of the line-up.

Thank you.