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Ep. 7: FLAMES UP CLOSE with Ryan Leslie, guest Matt Stajan

Matt Stajan talks about his thoughts on being a hockey dad.

Calgary Flames center Matt Stajan (18) as the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Calgary Flames at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. January 23, 2017.

Torstar News Service

Calgary Flames center Matt Stajan (18) as the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Calgary Flames at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. January 23, 2017.

In 14 NHL seasons spent in the hockey hotbeds of Toronto and Calgary,  Matt Stajan has just about seen it all - both on the ice and off.

He's one of the more likeable characters in the game – his teammates, the media and fans would agree.  Number 18 always has time for everyone.

But when I sat down for this week's installment of the Flames Upclose Podcast, I wanted to discuss something other than hockey.   Because Stajan is so candid, so real, I wanted to get his thoughts on being a hockey dad.  Fatherhood.  What it means to him and what kind of journey it's been for he and his family.

As many know, it started out with tragedy.  It started out with heartbreak and loss when he and wife Katie lost their newborn son Emerson in 2014. It's a parent's worst nightmare.  As Stajan pointed out though, a family never recovers, yet somehow they learn to move forward.

From a big goal where Matt pointed to the heavens, to various fundraisers that honour Emerson, to daily conversations with him, the Stajan's make sure their first born is never forgotten.

Parenting these days has different meaning for the Stajans.  Elliot Emerson Stajan is now almost 2 years old and already a hockey nut, dressed in his Flames gear, fist bumping dad through the glass during warm ups.  There was a time when I overheard Matt talking with Elliot on the phone.  Full-on conversation in full-on, adoring-dad voice.  Elliot was eight months old.  Now,  no matter where the Flames are, you can be sure FaceTime is keeping the Stajan family in touch. 

We think of hockey players are these tough warriors and sometimes forget that when they become parents, they turn to mush just like the rest of us.  Even Stajan admits he's the softy in the household. 

After 14 years in the fastest and toughest game around, Matt Stajan is the consummate hockey player. 
But make no mistake.  He's a dad first.  Above all else. 

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