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A Look Back Might Help Understand Letang’s Journey After 2nd Stroke

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Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang
Kris Letang, two days before he had his second stroke.

It seemed like a normal road practice in late January 2014. The Pittsburgh Penguins were skating at the large Toyota Center practice facility in El Segundo, Calif., in the Los Angeles area. The one personnel matter of note was that defenseman Kris Letang was missing.

Then-coach Dan Bylsma told the few of us traveling Pittsburgh reporters afterward that Letang was ill. Letang missed the game against the Kings the next night, Jan. 30, a 4-1 Penguins win. He also was absent two nights later at Phoenix, a 3-1 loss, and the word was there would be an update after the team returned to Pittsburgh.

It seemed a bit odd the way it was being handled, and Bylsma seemed to be trying to hide his level of concern. So at least for this reporter a small level of intrigue seemed to be in play. Little did we know, as word did not get out before the team, in fact, returned home, how significant the news would be.

That update was a bombshell, a shocking announcement at a news conference that Letang, then 26, had had a stroke.

A stroke.

It was jarring.

He had a young son, Alexander, who was less than 2. He had won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins. He was a workout beast. He seemingly had not only a lot of years left in his hockey career, but also many decades left in his life.

But Letang was young and strong. Team and medical representatives at the news conference offered assurances that Letang was receiving the best medical care, that he was functioning well and that he was expected to be able to resume his career at some point.

Letang, in quotes provided in a news release, said he hoped his situation would raise awareness.

He didn’t speak publicly until nearly a month later, Feb. 27. It was coordinated so that he would speak to two groups of reporters in the Penguins locker room the morning of a home game against Montreal – in French to the first group traveling with the Canadiens, and in English for us locals.

Letang was calm and honest and in good spirits, but his story was harrowing, including the fact that his wife had found him collapsed on the floor the morning the team was traveling to Los Angeles.

You can watch the English version here:

Man, the dude never ages.

As promised that day at the news conference, Letang returned. That happened April 9.

Now, as Penguins fans have almost surely heard, it has happened again. Letang, now 35, has had another stroke.

Reports from general manager Ron Hextall are upbeat, as reports were in 2014, even concerning his return to the ice to continue his career. In fact, the initial reports are that this stroke is less severe than the earlier one. Still, watching the above video could be highly informative about what Letang went through before and perhaps to some extent, what he could face now.

PHN and NHN extend wishes for Letang’s full recovery.

Shelly is a columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson