Stung by injuries in 2014, Stamkos, Tavares eagerly await World Cup redemption | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Stung by injuries in 2014, Stamkos, Tavares eagerly await World Cup redemption

Team Canada's Steven Stamkos practises in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, in preparation for the World Cup of Hockey. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
September 06, 2016 - 9:00 AM

OTTAWA - Steven Stamkos was on the other side of the world when the Canadian men's hockey team won Olympic gold in Russia. John Tavares was at the Bolshoy Ice Dome that day in 2014, but on the sidelines in a shirt and tie.

Both were supposed to be on the ice.

The two Canadian stars, both No. 1 overall picks and potential linemates, are approaching the World Cup of Hockey a little differently than their teammates. The opportunity to help their country capture a best-on-best tournament means just a little bit more after stinging absences caused by injury at the 2014 Games.

"With the talent that Canada has your window's pretty limited when it comes to these things," Stamkos said at Team Canada's training camp this week.

Stamkos was on the beach in the Cayman Islands, surrounded by Canadians, when the Sochi gold was won. The now 26-year-old captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning was supposed to be playing at that point, perhaps on the right wing alongside Sidney Crosby, but learned on the eve of the tournament that he wasn't ready physically to return from a broken right leg.

He'd been aggressively rehabbing from the injury, four, sometimes, six hours every day, itching for the chance to represent his country. Lightning medical director Ira Gutentag informed him on Feb. 5, just days before the Games were to begin, that he wasn't cleared to return.

A disappointed Stamkos went on vacation.

"It was tough," he recalled. "I kind of just wanted to get away."

He managed to catch a couple games on TV — he recalls a passionate group of Canadians in the Caymans — including Canada's gold medal tilt against Sweden. And while thrilled for his country and teammates, he also found it difficult to watch knowing that he was supposed to be there competing for gold and celebrating at the end of a 3-0 win.

The World Cup offers a consolation prize of sorts, though one that also appeared in doubt because of injury. Stamkos was treated for a blood clot in April, missing almost all of Tampa's run to the Eastern Conference final. "Here we go again," he thought at that time, wondering if he'd have to sit once more when Canada took to the ice in Toronto. He's off blood thinners now though, and playing alongside Tavares and Ryan Getzlaf to start camp.

Like Stamkos, Tavares was also dealing with a leg injury when the Canadians took gold. The 26-year-old captain of the New York Islanders injured his left knee in the quarter-final against Latvia, crunched into the boards by defenceman Arturs Kulda. He missed the semifinal, gold medal match and the rest of the Islanders season.

"Those are the games you dream about playing in: an Olympic final, an Olympic semifinal, playing against the U.S., obviously a great Swedish team," Tavares said. "I didn't get that opportunity. I was still fortunate to obviously be part of that team and play up until the point I got hurt. But in saying that you obviously want to be part of those games."

When he learned of the severity of the injury, Tavares decided he'd gamely play the role of good teammate while doing his best to absorb the Olympic experience. He even managed to make it on the ice to celebrate after the triumph over Sweden, a gold medal hanging around the collar of his white dress shirt.

He eagerly awaits another opportunity to win an international prize, especially in his hometown of Toronto. Tavares watched how the nation rallied around the Canadian team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, hopeful of a similar vibe later this month.

"It was amazing," Tavares said of the Games six years ago where Canada topped the U.S. for gold. "And for me to have the opportunity in my hometown I think should be a lot of fun.

"And you don't know if you ever get that opportunity again. It's almost a once-in-a-lifetime thing. So you want to go out there and give it your all and help the team get to the ultimate goal."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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