“I think I saw the Stanley Cup more often than if I had been to Montreal in a normal year. “
COVID-19 has brought its share of setbacks since March. The list of the perverse effects of this pandemic is endless. However, all is not always gloomy. A member of the champion Stanley Cup team, Mathieu Joseph can attest to this.
Due to restrictions in the metro area, he preferred to stay in Tampa. No quarantine to respect, no closing of training halls or arenas, but, above all, quality time with the precious trophy raised on the rink of Rogers Place in Edmonton on September 28.
“For a month now, I’ve been focusing on the next season, but for the first two weeks, we celebrated well. We planned parties where we were with the cup. We went to eat at the restaurant. At one point, we even spent a day on a boat with the cup. It was a great time, ”said the Lightning striker yesterday, joined by The Journal of Montreal.
To say that in normal times, he would only have had one day with the trophy.
Honor for the family
The best moment came in the last few days when Joseph got to see his name freshly engraved on the Stanley Cup.
“It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe. Yes, you dream about it when you play minor hockey, but you think to yourself that it might not be achievable. Kind of like dreaming of playing in the NHL, ”said the 23-year-old forward.
“It is an honor to see my name among this group of winners. I am really proud that my family name is on the Stanley Cup. To say that he will stay there for about 60 years, ”he added.
Joseph has not played any of the 25 games the Florida side have played in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles. When he jumped onto the ice to celebrate with his teammates, he was unsure if his name would appear on the iconic trophy.
In fact, what he didn’t know at the time was that he was automatically qualifying as he had donned the Lightning uniform for more than half of the team’s regular season games.
“I only played 37 games, but due to COVID, our season stopped at 70 games,” he was careful to point out during the interview.
However, Julien BriseBois, general manager of the Lightning, and Mathieu Darche, his assistant (director of hockey operations), had quickly reassured him.
“Without even asking, they told me that no matter what happened, they were going to make sure my name was on the cup. That even though I hadn’t played a playoff game, I was part of the team since I was in the bubble with them. “
New evidence to be made
For more than half a century, this Stanley Cup banner will prove that Joseph was part of the 2020-2021 Lightning roster. Now what about his status for the next season?
“I always come to camp wanting to prove that I am part of the team. It was the same at camp last year, although the previous season, I had spent it all in Tampa. It’s a new year, there are always new players arriving. “
A more than commendable attitude. But since he is a free agent with compensation, the former Saint-Jean Sea Dogs flag bearer will first have to initial a new agreement.
“I know my agent and Julien had conversations. I leave it in their hands. I remain optimistic. I think I will have a contract with the organization. I would really like to stay here. We will come to common ground before the start of the season, ”he said.
Due to the $ 81.5 million salary cap freeze, the Lightning could present a somewhat different face when they begin their title defense. Kevin Shattenkirk has already left the team for Anaheim, while Zach Bogisian has made an agreement with the Maple Leafs.
In these pages, a few weeks ago, BriseBois declared that the renewal of the contracts of young Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak was his priority. Except that the Lightning is already dangerously approaching the ceiling with a committed sum of $ 78.6 million.
Large wage earners could perhaps be sacrificed, which would open one more door for Joseph.