Steven Stamkos has been replaced by his Tampa Bay captain, Martin St. Louis, on Canada’s 2014 Olympic men’s hockey team.
Hockey Canada made the announcement on Thursday, a day after the Lightning said Stamkos would not able to participate in Sochi, as the forward is still suffering from a broken leg.
Even St. Louis old coach, current Canucks bench boss John Tortorella, had kind words for the veteran. (Tortorella and St. Louis both rose to league-wide prominence with the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning, when the team won its only Stanley Cup.)
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Tortorella told reporters on Thursday, while in Montreal. “They’re not gonna get him off the ice out there. They won’t. He’s that good, and I couldn’t be happier for him.
“For him to play for his country – he’s been overlooked before – he’ll be really good for them. He’s a terrific man.”
St. Louis and Stamkos were both at a presser on Thursday to address the former’s addition. Both players play for general manager Steve Yzerman in the NHL, and Yzerman is also the architect of Canada’s Olympic roster, the same position he held in 2010 for Vancouver’s Games.
(Neither St. Louis or Stamkos were picked for that Canadian team.)
“I worked hard for this,” St. Louis said on Thursday. “I feel terrible for Stammer that he’s in that situation. Obviously, Canada’s gonna miss him.
“I think if you could ask Stammer, if anybody could replace him, you know he’d want me. So, I’m gonna try to go there and do the best that I can.”
This will be St. Louis’s second Olympics. The 38-year-old had two goals and an assist in six games at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, as the team slouched to a seventh-place finish.
St. Louis had four points in six games when Canada won the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. In his decorated NHL career, the undrafted St. Louis has won a Hart Trophy, a Stanley Cup, and two Art Ross Trophies, in 2004 and 2013.
He wasn’t originally picked for this Canadian squad when Yzerman and Co. unveiled the roster in January.
“I wasn’t playing any hypotheticals, I wasn’t wasting time on that,” St. Louis on Thursday, about yesterday’s announcement that a new Olympic roster spot was open. “It was tough to be left off of it (in January) and I was trying to move past it.
“I’m just happy I’m getting the opportunity. I feel my whole career, I came in this league kind of a back-door entrance and it’s kinda the same way (now).
“At the end of the day, however you get there, people don’t really care at that point. You’re jsut there. And to me, that’s my mentality. I’m there and this is a big opportunity, and I’m gonna make the best of it.”
Since the 2010 Olympic in Vancouver, St. Louis leads all active NHLers with 310 points, ahead of only Stamkos, Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin, Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux, and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
Giroux, who also wasn’t named to Team Canada in January, was believed to be the other guy Team Canada was considering to replace Stamkos, along with Carolina’s Eric Staal and Pittsburgh’s James Neal.
“I didn’t give myself hope,” Giroux said on Thursday, after St. Louis was picked. “I didn’t want to be disappointed again, and you know, unfortunately for Steven, he worked hard to come back and try to make the team and try to play. It’s too bad for him.
“I’m just focused with tonight’s game. Good for Marty to be able to go to the Olympics.”
St. Louis is having another strong year, after leading the NHL in points in last year’s lockout-shortened season and winning his second Art Ross Trophy.
St. Louis has 54 points in 56 games this season. Giroux has 55 points in 57 games.
Dallas’s Tyler Seguin and San Jose’s Joe Thornton lead all Canadian non-Olympians with 56 points in 55 and 58 games played, respectively.
The highest-scoring non-Olympian in the National Hockey League this year is American Kyle Okposo, who plays for the New York Islanders. Okposo has 58 points in 57 games this year, third among all U.S.-born players, behind only Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel.