LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Pens defenseman Kris Letang continues to recover from a concussion that cut short his remarkable 2014-15 season. But he said one thing is certain.
“I’m going to be ready for training camp. No doubt about that,” he said.
Actually, there should be a correction to this story’s opening paragraph (or lede as we say in the business). Replace the adjective “remarkable” with “extraordinary” for Letang’s 2014-15 season. Because that’s really what it was. Beyond ordinary.
After all, Letang suffered a stroke in late January 2014 – a situation that not only threatened his hockey career, but threatened his life. Letang recovered from the stroke and even returned to the ice in just two-plus months.
However, it’s what he has had to deal with that makes his current season so extraordinary (so extraordinary that he is an NHL finalist for the Masterton Trophy – awarded yearly to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey”).
But Letang’s tale doesn’t end there. He didn’t just overcome the stroke and return to the ice. He retuned better than ever.
Despite having his season cut short following a concussion suffered March 28 against Arizona, Letang still set career highs in goals (t-11), assists (43) and points (54). At the time of his injury, Letang ranked ranked second among all NHL defensemen with 54 points and topped all blueliners with 43 assists. He was eighth in the league with 25:34 minutes per game.
In fact, had Letang not suffered the concussion, he would likely have been a candidate for the NHL’s Norris Trophy – given to the league’s best defensemen.
Letang, 28, is in Las Vegas this week for the NHL’s annual award show for his Masterton nomination. And he’s proud to have made the trip.
“It means a lot. It’s not a personal award on the ice, it’s something you go through,” Letang said. “I’m really proud to be nominated and thankfully to the people that voted for me. This is a fantastic event. I’m proud to be here.”
Letang has already overcome his stroke. Now he’s in the middle of overcoming his concussion. He was cleared for full contact on June 1st and has been pushing himself in the gym as hard as possible.
“Since I was fully cleared I’ve done everything I’ve wanted,” Letang said. “I’m at the same level of training as a year ago. I haven’t gone on the ice yet. But I’m in the gym going all out, no restrictions. Everything went well.”
Letang was asked about the obstacles he’s overcome recently – stroke and concussion – and if he has any lingering doubts or fear.
“If I want to keep going, play with the Penguins and play at the level I can play at, it’s because I have no fear,” he said.
That lack of fear allowed Letang to return from a stroke. The next step now is returning from his concussion.
Since Letang is in Las Vegas and considering his history of overcoming adversity, all I would end with is: Don’t bet against him.