It was a scary scene in November 2013—with less than eight minutes remaining in the second period of a contest against the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos pounded his fist on the ice in agonizing pain. After smashing his right leg into the goalpost of Tampa Bay’s net, trainers told him he fractured his tibia. He returned to the ice in March 2014, but now a year later, reminders of his devastating leg injury still linger.
“It was tough—I had never had a major injury like that before in my life,” says Stamkos, who is a two-time recipient of the Maurice Richard Trophy. “You realize how tough it is—you have a new perspective and appreciation for the game. I learned how powerful the mind is. When you’re thinking positive and think you can push your body to the limit in order to recover, you can do it.”
But it was a combination of Stamkos’ extensive recovery and rehabilitation programs that helped to get back on the ice a mere four months after being taken out of Boston’s TD Garden on a backboard and stretcher.
“It was long. It was tough,” Stamkos says. “We were going four to six hours a day when I was just trying to get back and walk. We were lucky to use the resources and assets we had, like underwater treadmills [and] certain supplements to help the bone-healing process. It was grueling, but it was worth it in the end.”
25 years old
Training grounds: Gary Roberts High Performance Centre, North York, Ont.
Current condition of leg injury: “I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that I haven’t felt it in a certain capacity—a lot of it is a mental thing, so if you can get over that mental hurdle, you can go on the ice and put in the work. Last off-season was big to be able to try and strengthen that leg and regain the muscle. It’s definitely getting there.”
Days spent working in the gym per week: Three to four days in the summer, and at least one day per week during the season.
Typical summer workout: “Wednesdays and Saturdays are track days. We’ll do dynamic warm-ups, stretches, quick feet, agility and then we’ll get into our sprints, whether it’s explosive days or going for a little more cardio. We’ll try to mix in a yoga session, too, and usually Sundays are our day off where you try and regroup, and get ready for Monday.”
Typical in-season workout: “Usually, you get a day off [each] week, so you’re at the rink six days a week, whether you’re practicing or playing. You try and mix-in your workouts when you don’t have a game the next day. Our trainer usually tries to get the guys together, depending on the schedule, for at least one workout a week as a team and do something not too crazy because the schedule is pretty tough.”
Secret workout: Belt squat machine and the curved treadmill. “It’s a safer way than doing back squats. It’s a little easier on your body and still generates the same power. [The curved treadmill] is not plugged into anything so you’re generating the power on your own. With the curve, it’s forcing you to use your hamstrings and glutes a lot more, so it’s a tough one.”
Most essential exercises for top on-ice performance: “I think, for me, it’s all about explosiveness—any type of jumping or light squatting with explosive movements. That’s probably the thing that benefits me the most.”
Body fat percentage: “It’s usually between eight and 12 percent.”
Body change, pre-NHL until present: “You mature. I was 18 years old when I came in and I’m 25 now. So, just physically over time you are going to get bigger and stronger. You realize it’s not about how much you weigh but how strong you are, and I’ve been able to gain a lot of muscle over the years. You physically change and realize how hard it is to compete—you learn that pretty quick.”
Typical diet: Steak, fish, chicken, with a mix of veggies and carbs. “In the off-season, I’m pretty strict with my diet—everything I do is mostly organic. We have a company that we partner-up with in the Toronto area that provides us with our food. During the year, it’s a little different—you’re traveling so you’re eating out more.
Favorite pre-game meal: “I usually try to have a little pasta and a little chicken, and a salad.”
Guilty pleasure: “If I’m going to go off the chart, I would probably go to McDonald’s.”
Specific drink to celebrate with: “I wouldn’t say celebrate with but I am a big Caesar fan. I know Canadian fans will know what I’m talking about. For the Americans, it’s a Bloody Mary, but I think it’s way better in Canada—we use Clamato juice. Any time throughout the year we go to Canada I make sure to try and have one … if I can get one.”