Steven Stamkos Will Not Play for Team Canada at Sochi 2014 Olympics

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Steven Stamkos Will Not Play for Team Canada at Sochi 2014 Olympics
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Updates from Thursday, Feb. 6

Following yesterday's announcement that Steven Stamkos would not play in the 2014 Winter Olympics, the Tampa Bay Lightning star spoke about the status of his injured leg (via Missy Zielinski of the Tampa Bay Lightning and James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail):

Stamkos also spoke about the emotions he's feeling after having to leave Team Canada's roster (via Mirtle and Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun):

Original Text

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos will not play for Team Canada in the men's ice hockey tournament at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.   

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced the update on the superstar's Olympic status. General manager Steve Yzerman made the following statement:

After reviewing the CT scan this afternoon, Dr. Gutentag made it clear to me and to Steven that the tibia is not completely healed and therefore he should not be participating in game action at any time in the near future. Although the doctor was very pleased to this point with the healing process, he explained that the callus surrounding the fracture site is not 100 percent consolidated, and Steven will not be cleared to play in a game until that happens. It was a pretty clear cut decision, no gray areas at all.

Stamkos also spoke about the news and expressed his disappointment:

Today is obviously very disappointing for me. I honestly believe that we did everything possible in order to have my injured leg ready in time for the Olympics, but I realize you can't force healing. I know, in the best interest of my long term health, I cannot represent Canada in Sochi, as much as I would like to. I would like to thank the training staff for their dedication and hard work and I look forward to returning to the Lightning once cleared by the medical team.

Stamkos was a major question mark for Canada ever since he suffered a severe leg injury in early November. The 23-year-old forward is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the world, which is why the gold-medal contenders waited as long as possible to see if he would be ready.

Hockey Canada Tweeted about the announcement of Stamkos' replacement:

 

Throughout the recovery process Stamkos had his sights set on being back to full strength in time for the Olympics. Patrick Williams of NHL.com passed along comments from the center in early January about not pushing too hard and suffering a setback:

You can deal with pain. I think it's, mentally, not trying to push it too hard. Your body is pretty good at letting you know which movements you can and can't try.

It's all about not having a setback right now. Could I go out and there and push myself and be able to do some things? Probably, but I don't want that setback. You want to push yourself, you want to go out there, but at the same time you have to be smart.

Unfortunately for Team Canada, Stamkos wasn't able to get back to a point where it was wise for him to play in the Olympics. With the long-term future in mind, it didn't make sense for him to risk further injury by heading to Sochi at less than 100 percent.

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It certainly doesn't mean the Canadians should be removed from the top contender category, however. They still have more than enough talent to win gold for the second straight Games. It just puts more pressure on the likes of Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews to lead the way. 

Canada heads into the Olympics viewed as one of the top two teams along with host nation Russia. While those two countries could be on a gold-medal-game collision course, Sweden and the United States headline the group of secondary contenders.

The Canadians' first game in Group B is scheduled for Feb. 13 against Norway. The tournament is slated to run through Feb. 23.

The Lightning will then resume play after the Olympic break with a game against the Nashville Predators on Feb. 27. 

 

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