During August of 2013, Kris Letang headed to Complex Sportif Bell (Montreal Canadiens training facility) in Brossard a couple of times to continue his ‘off season’ training for the new season. (Being a figure skater) I skated on the opposite ice as several players from many different teams would use the NHL level practice facility on the opposite sheet of ice. There were a few times I met Letang before and after practices randomly in the hallway and I was able to have brief conversations with him.
One of the final practices before training camp began Letang said, “Every season there is a challenge, and you cannot worry about this you have to worry about playing your best and getting that win.”
Letang headed to Pittsburgh a few days later to attend the training camp. Right before the beginning of the season, Letang suffered a lower body/knee injury. It was not a serious injury but it was enough to keep him sidelined for nine games. Letang returned near the end of October… but already it was a sign that the 2013-14 season would not go Letang’s way.
Then in December, Kris Letang suffered another injury and two days later he was placed on injured reserve and missed another ten games with an upper body injury/elbow injury. He returned at the beginning of January and only played a few games before the shocking events happened.
Near the end of the month, the players were heading on the western trip with their mothers. Letang had been feeling ill for a few days. However he did skate but did not play any of the games as the trainers thought it would be best not too.
After undergoing further tests the medical staff concluded he suffered from a stroke. The news took over a week to be revealed and when it was many fans were shocked. Seeing a young, healthy man suffer from a stroke just opens the eyes that these things can happen to anyone at any age (healthy or not).
About three weeks after suffering from the stroke, Kris Letang did his first press conference since suffering from the stroke. The press conference happened on February 27th, 2014 the night the Pittsburgh Penguins took on the Montreal Canadiens.
Letang started off by saying, “I’m going to say, it’s not really a good season for me, not really lucky. But honestly, if I have the chance to come back this year and play, it’s going to be great and I want to make sure I forget all about the three quarters of the season I missed.”
Letang talked about his current health and said, “I have some good days, some bad days, it is tough.” When a reporter questioned him about ‘tough’ he admitted it was tough mentally…but anyone going through any type of illness would agree that it is tough mentally especially with lingering questions. In Letang’s case it is worse, as the question still is, “Will I ever be able to play again?”
Further tests into the reasons for the stroke showed that Letang had a small hole in his heart. Most babies have this when they are born but normally the hole closes up when one is still young. They are not a hundred percent sure that this is the cause of the stroke but it is a very good possibility. Since suffering the stroke on January 29th, Letang mentioned his family is constantly by his side and willing to help him any way they can. As well the doctors have been seeing him twice a week and assured him that he will skate again.
He has started doing a light workout and even skated at the family skate before the NHL stadium series. He did not skate hard but for one who has been on the ice his entire life and suddenly being told he has to wait until he is better… I am sure just being out there on the ice has helped his mental state quite a bit.
This was definitely not the year Letang had imagined from the summer when I met him, however he is expected to make a full recovery and return at some point. Letang has tests in a few weeks that will give us a better estimation on his time schedule but the team won’t rush him back. The illness could have been a lot worse than it was and now that there is knowledge of exactly what the problem is, all precautions will be taken. Letang has to think about more than hockey, as he has a one-year-old son who means the world to him along with his gorgeous wife.
He has been seen watching his team everyday trying to encourage them and stay away from sitting at home overthinking. “To be around the team, around the rink, working out, I’m trying to take steps to get closer to coming back.” We wish Kris Letang all the best on his continued road to a full recovery.
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