SOCHI, Russia — Martin St. Louis is going to get a chance to represent his country at the Winter Olympics after all.
Hockey Canada announced today that the 38-year-old Tampa Bay forward will replace injured Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos on Canada’s men’s hockey team at the Sochi Olympics.
“I heard from Stammer that he wasn’t going to go, so I knew it was a possibility,” St. Louis told reporters in Tampa on Thursday. “So I guess I was prepared for it.”
St. Louis said he felt bad for Stamkos, who tried hard to come back from a broken right tibia he suffered in a Nov. 11 NHL game before being ruled out of Olympic competition by the Lightning’s medical staff on Wednesday.
“I think we’ve got to understand how hard he’s tried and worked to put himself in the position he’s in and give himself a chance,” St. Louis said. “Obviously he’s disappointed and I’m disappointed for him. Stammer’s a true professional and he’s done everything he can this past month to get back to the lightning first and hopefully to Team Canada.”
St. Louis was considered one of Canada’s most surprising snubs when Canada’s team was first announced, along with Philadelphia forward Claude Giroux and Pittsburgh forward James Neal.
The Laval, Que., native led the league in points in the 2012-13 shortened season with 17 goals and 43 assists in 48 games.
He is having another strong campaign in 2013-14 with 54 points (25 goals, 29 assists) in 56 games, good for 11th in the league.
“I don’t see this as Marty replacing me, I see it as Marty deserving a spot on this team and going over and hopefully bringing back a gold medal,” said Stamkos in the same news conference.
St. Louis has won two World Championship silver medals for Canada over his career. He played in the 2006 Turin Olympics, scoring two goals and an assist in Canada’s disappointing seventh-place finish.
St. Louis went on a 10-game point streak (eight goals, six assists) for the Lightning after first being left off Canada’s team, announced on Jan. 7. He said the snub had nothing to do with his increased production, but his play of late might have given him the edge over Giroux and Neal.
“I don’t think it’s motivation. I’ve been motivated the past four years … the past 10 years. If you’re not motivated, you’re not even considered for these things.
His speed could be a benefit to Canada, which has struggled in the Olympics when playing on the larger international ice surface. Canada won gold in Salt Lake City in 2002 and in Vancouver in 2010 playing in NHL-style arenas, but was left off the podium in Nagano, Japan in 1998 and Turin, Italy in 2006.
“Obviously it’s a bigger ice surface. It think my quickness, my speed … that’s what I’m going to rely on,” St. Louis said. “It’s a different game, but I think whatever game plan we come up with, it’s going to be well thought-out.”
Stamkos is confident that his teammate can fill any position on Team Canada.
“He’s going to go over there and play whatever role possible. I personally think he’s going to play a big role,” said Stamkos. “The character that he has, the way he’s played in big-game situations in the past. I mean, he’s won individual awards, he’s won the team championships, he’s been in those situations.
“It’s not like it’s a young guy that’s never been in these situations before filling in for someone. This is a guy who can step in and play any role asked.”