When Tampa Bay Lightning superstar center Steven Stamkos violently crashed into the Boston Bruins' post on Monday afternoon, it wasn't just a calamitous blow for the Eastern Conference leaders.
It was a letdown for anyone who simply enjoys good hockey—no matter where their allegiance stands.
The Lightning's official team feed broke the devastating news shortly after his injury:
Steven Stamkos suffered a broken right tibia during this afternoon's game at Boston. He is out indefinitely.— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) November 11, 2013
"Indefinitely" doesn't exactly leave much room for optimism in the first place, but Bleacher Report's medical expert Will Carroll gives a projected timeline that will almost certainly keep the uncommonly talented 23-year-old sidelined for the rest of the regular season:
Tibia fx for Stamkos means about 6-8 months. Fixation likely, but doesn't really affect timeline.— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) November 11, 2013
Personally, I have zero stock in the Lightning. But this kind of news is just deflating.
Sports are at their most captivating when the best players in the world are competing at their highest levels against each other. While losing Stamkos for an extensive period of time is obviously devastating for the Lightning, it serves as a major blow to the NHL as a whole.
Entering Monday, Stamkos was tied with Alexander Steen for most goals with 14 and tied with Sidney Crosby in points with 23.
And those kind of numbers have been the trend—he was second in the NHL in goals and points last season and first and second, respectively, during the 2011-12 season. Throughout his six-year career, he has averaged more than a point per game.
In terms of name recognition, Stamkos isn't on the level of a Crosby or an Alexander Ovechkin for common fans, but he still has the rare ability to make even the non-hockey fans appreciate the sport. His dominant offensive ability is mesmerizing at times, and there's no question how beneficial he can be for the popularity of the sport.
You watch Stamkos play, and you become a fan. If your fanhood doesn't allow you to become a fan, you at least respect his ability.
It's a loss for the Lightning, it's a loss for fans of the sport, it's a loss for the sport itself and it could also be a loss for Team Canada.
If the current projected timetable for his return is accurate, there is very little chance Stamkos is able to make his way back to the ice for the Sochi Olympics, which take place in February.
Team Canada is undeniably stacked, especially at center, and will be able to survive without their star. But in a tournament that is supposed to pit the best players in the world against each other for national pride, it wouldn't feel right without Stamkos.
No matter who you cheer for, this is the type of unfortunate injury where everybody loses.