On the ice, Penguins deadline acquisitions Lee Stempniak and Marcel Goc have been fitting in with their new team just fine so far.
Off the ice, it’s been a lot more hectic – especially for Stempniak.
There’s already enough chaos that comes with being traded in terms of leaving the place you’ve called home and having to get used to a new system, teammates, locker room atmosphere and city. But Stempniak’s life had already changed forever just days before the March 5 deadline, when the 31-year-old winger became a first-time dad after his wife Lindsay gave birth to twin baby girls, Reese and Lucy, on Feb. 28.
Lindsay has sent her husband as many updates as she can of their newborn daughters, but that just isn’t the same as being with them. So Lee took advantage of the team day off on Wednesday to fly back to Boston, where the Stempniaks reside in the offseason, to spend a few precious hours with all of his girls.
“It was fun. Talked to (Lindsay) a lot, she’s at the hospital all day and she sends me a lot of pictures and a lot of video,” Stempniak said. “I guess it’s lucky it’s happening now as opposed to 10-15 years ago, when you can’t even easily do that stuff.”
Describing what fatherhood has been like was difficult for Stempniak to explain because, well, there really aren’t words for it.
“I mean, it’s all the clichés,” Stempniak said. “You can’t really describe it. It’s an awesome feeling. We thought we were ready to have kids, and then when it happens, it’s beyond words. It’s an amazing feeling and just holding them.
They’ve grown a little bit already since I’ve been gone, so it’s just an awesome thing.”
Meanwhile, Goc’s wife Susanne and 3-year-old son Jonas are still in Florida, but he hopes they’ll be able to join him here in Pittsburgh shortly.
“I’m on my own for another week or so, (but I’ll) try to plan to fly them out here as soon as they can,” said the former Panther.
While Stempniak was flying back and forth from Boston on Wednesday, Goc was grateful for the chance to catch his breath here in Pittsburgh and have a day off in his new city.
“It was good to get settled a little bit, get some things organized,” he said. “It was a lot of traveling the last week coast-to-coast and back to the other coast pretty much. It’s been great being here, it’s been fun and looking forward to my time here.”
After being traded to the Penguins on March 5, both Stempniak and Goc flew out from their respective cities the next day and met the team in San Jose. They both played that night against the Sharks despite zero practice time with their new club, and from there it was learn by fire for both of them the rest of the road trip.
“Probably not easy for them, being on the road and not being set up here as much,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “But I think as far as getting to know the guys and understanding everything, meetings, all that stuff, that’s huge. I think even from prior situations where guys have gotten traded, it’s always better when you have a few games on the road like that. It works out a lot better that way.”
While Goc agreed with Crosby, saying he actually preferred to jump into games right away so “that way, you stop thinking and you just play and get into it,” he and Stempniak were glad to have two full days of practice with the team on Thursday and Friday so they could fine-tune some details.
“It felt like I was all over the country the last little bit here, but it’s been nice at least just getting a couple practices in here before our next game,” Stempniak said. “Just sort of meet the guys, go over some stuff on the ice where it’s not so do-or-die and just sort of work through some mistakes.”
They finally got to play in front of Pens fans for the first time on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh’s 2-0 win against Washington. It’s an experience they both thoroughly enjoyed, and they’re looking forward to the atmosphere on Sunday when Philly comes to town.
“The fans are awesome here,” Stempniak said. “It’s a really fun place to play. I think people respect hard work. I’m from Buffalo and Pittsburgh seems to be from the same mold. It’s that hardworking mentality that people appreciate.”