Obviously you realize what the most important things are in life and that’s family. This is like my second family coming here. Everybody’s been so great and helpful. - Matt Stajan
CALGARY, AB -- It’s about moving forward for Matt and Katie Stajan.
Matt returned to practice alongside his teammates for the first time since the loss of son Emerson, who passed away on March 3rd following childbirth.
“Obviously you realize what the most important things are in life and that’s family,” the Calgary Flames forward said. “This is like my second family coming here. Everybody’s been so great and helpful. Going on the ice, it’s a nice place for any player to get skating and clear the mind. It’s been refreshing the last couple days on my own skating and to get back on the ice skating, it’s another step. It’s exciting for me to move forward here.
“I want to play. You’ve got to keep taking steps forward. I want to get right back into game action. That’s what hockey players want to do. That’s the plan and I’m excited to get right back at it.”
Stajan will make his return to Calgary’s lineup Tuesday when the Flames host the Buffalo Sabres.
He’ll be doing so with the support of teammates, Mike Cammalleri reassured.
“Fantastic to see him again,” Cammalleri said. “Other than being a fantastic teammate, he’s a very well-liked person and has a lot of close friends in this locker room. It’s just nice to have our buddy back around. We missed him.
“I think for him, the process will be whatever he and his family want it to be. We’ll be there to support whatever that means.”
After all, the Flames are family, too.
“When one is down, there’s a group around this guy to pick him up and that’s exactly what’s going to happen here,” coach Bob Hartley said. “We’re a team but more importantly we’re a family.”
As happy as the Flames are to have him back, the team offered Stajan as much time as he felt he needed.
That offer extended to sititng out the remainder of the season, a point Stajan pondered.
“The organization and (president of hockey operations) Brian Burke, (president and CEO) Ken King, everybody in the organization has been unbelievable,” Stajan said. “They said straight out to me that if I take the rest of the year off, that’s fine, just do whatever you need to do.
“Sitting down with my wife and the last couple weeks obviously going through what we’ve been through we talked. It’s about moving forward and taking steps. We’re always going to remember and it never gets easy but you’ve got to move on and remember. This is another step forward.”
The outpouring of well wishes hasn’t been limited to just the Flames family.
The hockey community has rallied to show support for one of their own.
The news of Stajan’s loss spread across the hockey world, prompting an outpouring of messages sending condolences to Matt and Katie.
“The support we’ve had, not just from the Flames organization but from the whole hockey world, the city of Calgary has been unbelievable,” Stajan said. “Other teams from the league have reached out and players. It doesn’t make things easier but it does help with the grieving. When you get shown support like that, I think you feel really special.
“This hockey world’s a special world and we’re all lucky to be a part of it. It definitely helped me and my wife and it’s going to continue to help.
“It’s not just over and done with. This is something we’ll always remember. There will always be moments but my wife’s a strong woman and we’ve done a great job to this point.
“We’re going to keep moving forward.”