TAMPA, Fla. — Just before the NHL final, Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg had a name on his mind other than Stanley.
Jaxson James Versteeg, the first child for Versteeg and his wife, was born Monday in Toronto.
Versteeg abandoned plans to fly to Tampa with the Blackhawks to make it in time for his son’s birth.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Versteeg said Wednesday. “In hockey I’ve been able and fortunate to be a part of some great things, but nothing really compares to the birth of your child.”
Versteeg only got to spend a few hours with his wife and son before joining his teammates to prepare for Game 1 of the Cup final. He said it was well worth it and difficult to go.
“It was hard to leave him, but it’s part of your job and that’s why you get paid to be a professional,” the 29-year-old forward said. “It’s been exciting and intoxicating, but now it’s about getting ready for hockey.”
Versteeg was part of the Blackhawks’ 2010 Cup run and bounced around since. The Lethbridge, Alta., native has since played for the Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers before being traded back to Chicago last season.
He has a tattoo commemorating winning the Cup and compared the birth of his son to that accomplishment in a different, life-altering way.
“It’s almost like you’re in shock,” Versteeg said. “(You) can’t really understand what’s going on, can’t comprehend it until you step back. But four or five hours, when you got to finally hold him it was pretty remarkable.”
Versteeg was asked if he and his wife considered “Stanley” as a name. They didn’t.
“But I have gotten that question quite often,” he said.
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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press