During the offseason, tampabaylightning.com will talk to Lightning players to get their first-hand account of a moment from the 2017-18 season, an update on their summer or just what's on their mind currently.
Today, we talk to Yanni Gourde, who had to balance playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with becoming, along with his wife Marie-Andree, a first-time parent. Gourde scored a goal in Game 2 of an Eastern Conference Semifinals win versus Boston, was at the hospital to witness the birth of his daughter Emma Kate Gourde and flew to Boston for a pivotal Game 3, all in a 48-hour period and with only a couple hours of sleep.
Here, Gourde recounts those dizzying couple of days, as told to tampabaylightning.com beat writer Bryan Burns.
Being a father is great. Emma is awesome. She's grown so much since she was born. It's so fun to be there for her and see her grow little by little. She smiles all the time now. She's great at night, sleeps pretty well. She's a great baby.
Life has changed, but we're all doing pretty well. Marie is awesome. She's taking care of the baby a lot so that I can go through my regular offseason routine. I'm going through a similar routine to the past few offseasons like working out and trying to get my body ready for camp, so I'm really focused on that. Once, I get home, that's the moment I take care of the baby. It's amazing.
My wife was actually at the game the night before giving birth. It was Game 2 of the Boston series in Tampa. We had planned to induce birth to make sure I was able to be there for the birth of Emma and be there for my wife during the whole delivery. That was kind of the thought process behind it. So, she was at Game 2 and she drove to the hospital right after the game. Later, after I showered, I went there to join her and her mom.
I wasn't too nervous playing in that game. At least the birth was planned and I'm not on the road and I know I'm going to be there. If something happened during the game, I knew the staff would tell me and I would probably leave the game or see if it's urgent or not. We kind of talked about it a bit before going into the Boston series because we were getting closer to our due date. We wanted to make sure that if anything happened, I would try to be able to get there and be there for my wife. I talked to (Lightning head athletic trainer Tom Mulligan) about it and (Tampa Bay GM) Steve (Yzerman) called and (Lightning head coach Jon Cooper) called. They kind of told me, 'Whatever you need, you tell us and we'll make it happen for you. It's a big moment for you and your wife.' It was very nice of them to tell me those things so I could play freely and have in mind they were going to be helping out if anything would have happened during a game or while we were on the road. I wasn't too nervous playing in Game 2 even though I knew after the game I would be going to the hospital for the birth of my daughter. I had a game to play and I wanted to be there with the boys playing the game 100 percent and make sure I was mentally ready to play that game. And I think that's what happened. I scored a goal in the game, so I must have been somewhat focused.
After the game, I joined my wife at the hospital. It was kind of nerve-wracking. Marie and I really didn't know what we were getting into. I barely had an hour of sleep that night. We were basically up all night talking. It was hard to sleep for sure. It wasn't until late in the afternoon the next day when Marie gave birth. It was at 4:42 (p.m.) May 1. It was unbelievable. It was a great moment. I'm so glad I was there to see Emma first and be there for my wife. It was an amazing day. I just wanted to hold her and make sure she was healthy and everything was okay. Holding her was the greatest feeling I've ever had in my life. It was completely different than anything else I've ever done. You can't really relate to that unless you have a child. It's something bigger than nature. It's a miracle. It's just unbelievable to be able to hold her. You made a child. It's pretty incredible.
Video: BOS@TBL, Gm2: Gourde sweeps home Point's feed for PPG
But I couldn't stay long. We were playing in Boston the next day, so I had to catch a flight to make it in time for the game. I went to the airport at 6 a.m. for my flight at 7:30 a.m. I made it to Boston around 11 a.m. and then jumped in a shuttle the team set up to get me to the hotel. The travel went smoothly. Everything was planned perfectly. (Lightning senior director of team services) Ryan Belec took care of that, and it was huge. Everything was taken care of. It's great when you don't have to think about those things. He set everything up; I just had to be there. It was pretty easy for me to do that. The team was great about it, and they helped me through the whole thing. It was really nice of them.
I got to the team hotel right around the time the boys were there eating their pre-game lunch. They were really excited to see me. We basically had a group hug in the middle of the room. All of them congratulated me. It was really nice. It was tough to leave Marie and Emma at the hospital, but during the day, she told me she was okay and everything was fine and have fun and have a good game. I was basically on my phone trying to be there for her, but at the same time, I was in Boston for a reason: to play hockey and be there for my teammates and my team and that was really important for me to be there for the boys. Once Marie told me 'go play hockey,' and I knew she was okay and Emma was good, I just had to play hockey, play the game and focus on that.
At this point, I still haven't slept much since the night before Game 2. I slept on the whole flight up to Boston, probably two-and-a-half hours. I took a long pre-game nap before Game 3, probably my longest ever, around three-and-a-half hours. It was really long. It was worth it though. I needed it. Game 3 was kind of a blur. I think I played my normal game. I was really excited obviously. I think I might have played a bit better than my normal game. I played a pretty good game. My adrenaline was really high. I had a lot of energy for some reason even though I'd barely had any sleep for the 48 hours before. I was running on adrenaline. I don't know, it was really fun. And we won. So, all in all, it was a pretty incredible couple of days for me, my family and my team.