We were ready to have kids and you think you know what to expect and it just exceeds your wildest dreams. It’s an amazing feeling. - Lee Stempniak
ST. PAUL, MN -- The ear-to-ear smile on the fatigued face of Lee Stempniak said it all. The Calgary Flames forward is now a proud father.
On leave with wife Lindsay in Boston before meeting teammates in Minnesota, the pair welcomed twin daughters Lucy and Reese into the world on Saturday.
“Just holding them, it was tough to leave them [Sunday],” Stempniak said. “We were ready to have kids and you think you know what to expect and it just exceeds your wildest dreams. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m happy my wife’s there to be with the girls and take care of them and I know they’re in good hands.
“She’s got her hands full with two little girls but she’s already a great mom. She’s been ready for it and I know she’s going to do a good job. It’s better she’s with them than just me being with them by myself because I know she’s going to do a better job.”
Though he’s only been a father for a few days, Stempniak is quickly developing a new outlook on life.
“You quickly realize there’s bigger things in life than playing hockey,” he said. “Obviously hockey’s our job and you’re paid well to do it and it’s a big part of my life, but at the same time, to be able to go home and know you’ve got a family now, it takes precedence over everything. It’s pretty special.”
That doesn’t mean the 5-foot-11, 196-pound winger isn’t ready to get back to business, though.
Far from it, in fact.
“I met with him this morning and basically I left it up to him to see if he wanted to play or take a few days to get back skating with the boys,” coach Bob Hartley said. “He said he had been skating in Boston, felt great and he wanted to play.”
While Stempniak, who left the team to be with his wife on Feb. 20, doesn’t necessarily return to the Flames lineup well rested, he’s more than ready to resume his season.
“I’d been away for a long time, especially with this backing into the Olympic break,” he said. “It’s exciting to be back. Hockey’s a huge part of my life. I’m really passionate about it and it’s nice to be back and be back playing.”
He last played in Calgary’s 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 8.
Despite nearly going a month between seeing games, Stempniak feels ready to step back in.
“I skated a lot when I was home,” he said. “It was just by myself but I was able to skate. I worked out and rode the bike and tried to do everything I could to be ready and to stay in shape. I think if anything, the timing a little bit with passes in your feet and picking pucks up like that or pucks off the boards. Hopefully that comes with time. It shouldn’t be too long.”
Featuring a thin roster with absences from Matt Stajan (personal) and Kevin Westgarth (upper body), Hartley is more than ready to have Stempniak suit up.
“It has been a long break, especially the last couple of days have been pretty exciting for Stempy,” Hartley said. “We stayed in touch. We basically talked every second day and he always kept me informed of what was going on with his wife and the two girls and telling me also he was working out and skating.
“This morning when we met, he just told me he was good to go so it’s good to have him back.”