Transcript: Stamkos calls this injury the “toughest” of his career

Transcribed for accessibility. Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos addresses the media for the first time since suffering a torn meniscus in November.

Quick Note: For the sake of clarity and fluency, I have omitted extraneous uses of the phrases, “and,” “so,” “kind of,” “obviously,” “you know,” and “I mean.”

Question: Where are you at? How’s your recovery coming along?

Steven Stamkos: Oh, it’s progressed well. It’s been a long process. It was four to six months, with four months really out of the question from the beginning. We’ve passed that now. It was my first full skate today. It was nice to get out there with the guys and just participate fully.

A lot of hard work behind the scenes just to get to this point. I’ll continue to do the same. It’s encouraging and hopefully the guys can continue to play well. That’s helped in the process too, just being around this group that has put a last quarter-of-a-season together that a lot of people counted us out to be in the mix. It definitely helps with the process as well.

Question: Anything in your mind, in terms of any date when you might - to kind of keep an eye on?

Stamkos: Yeah, when I feel 100%. [smiles] Obviously that’s not the case yet. And that’s in all honesty. I can’t pick a date because I may not feel 100% on that date. I’ve gone through stuff like this before. You start setting dates, that’s when sometimes you set unrealistic goals.

When I feel 100%, I’ll be back playing. Obviously we’d like that to be sooner rather than later, but that’s the way these injuries go.

Question: How has this process been for you? Unfortunately, you’ve been here before. How’s this one been for you?

Stamkos: This has been the toughest, by far. I think mentally you know what to expect. I think physically this one’s been the toughest, just with the type of injury that it was [torn meniscus], it was a grind a lot of days. A lot of - especially when it happened.

Hopefully that’s it. The string of bad luck is over, but you get over that quick. You start to rehab. You start to see the progression, but it’s - from a physical standpoint, this one tested me for sure. That’s why it’s just even satisfying to be able to get out here and just practice with the guys. That’s a good start.

Question: The timing of it too. You were playing some of the best hockey of your career, too...

Stamkos: Same - when I broke my leg too. For whatever reason, those scenarios have happened. A lot of “what could have been?” But that’s life. Things like that happen. You get tested in a lot of different ways.

For me, it was tough to have an injury, tough to watch the guys struggle there for a bit, and see the season unfold the way it has. But, like I said before, it’s encouraging the way things have gone lately and that’s helped me in the process as well.

Question: Do you expect to play before the end of the season?

Stamkos: Like I said [laughs], when it’s 100% I’ll be back. It’s honestly a question I can’t answer. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in this rehab process where it’s feeling like it’s never going to get better - and then you have a week where it goes through the roof in regards to how you’re feeling.

There was never really any expectation or any set dates from the beginning. It was something that - they throw that four-to-six [month] range. Four months was kind of out of the question at the beginning. It was, to be honest, probably closer to the five month mark. Things have progressed well. I’ll be playing when it feels ready.

Today was a first skate - can’t say that it feels ready right now, but it was a start. Hopefully after a few more of those, you start to gain some confidence and you go from there.

Question: You keep going “100%” - like what would you need to feel in order to feel that way? As far as the way you’re skating, the way your body feels after practice, or what kind of things are you looking for?

Stamkos: Yeah, no. You have no restrictions. You feel like you do before there was a surgery there. Even when I came back from the broken leg, there’s the curve that goes with coming back from something like that.

Inflammation, a little bit of pain after, but it’s - there shouldn’t be any uncomfortable moments on the ice. Some of that’s mental too. I’ve been through this before so I think I have a good understanding of what my body needs to feel like in order for me to get back on the ice.

Question: There’s a mental part of it now, you think?

Stamkos: It’s helped me, going through the leg thing. Taking that first hit or fall or stuff like that, where you trust the repair. Today was a good step in that as well, just getting out there.

Guys aren’t going out - it’s contact practice, but no one’s going out there hitting me [smiles]. Just to be around the guys, not knowing if someone can fall on you. Just being prepared for that type of stuff, it’s easing when you can go out there and have no issues like I did today.

Question: Going back to November, when you went off the ice... [inaudible] What was going through your head?

Stamkos: Yeah, I knew something definitely didn’t feel right. I thought it was just something minor at the start. Something - you just feel something and you think, “Okay, it’s going to release or un-click” or whatever that feeling that you have is. It wasn’t ‘til you get the MRI and you hear that you’re going to be done for a while. You need a major surgery to fix it.

It was frustrating. Very - a lot of emotions run through your head, especially with the expectations we had as a team coming into this year. The expectations that I had on myself. The way that both the team and me personally got off to a good start.

It’s frustrating, you’re in a little bit of a downward spiral for a couple days. It happened so quick; the next day I was out in Vail [Colorado] having surgery. You get on with it quick and you start the rehab process. It goes from there.