Kris Letang's Inspiring Return to Practice is the Right Move for Pittsburgh Penguins

By Shane Darrow
Getty Images
Getty Images

Kris Letang is 26 years old. Seven weeks ago, his wife found him on their bedroom floor after suffering a stroke.

No matter how many times I write that sentence it never makes sense as I type it. It shouldn’t make sense for any athlete to suffer a stroke in the prime of their career.

Letang isn’t just a good defenseman; he’s one of the best.

Rich Peverly‘s incident on the bench in Dallas was an eye-opener for a lot of hockey fans. Hockey players are commonly seen as superheroes. We don their jerseys thinking nothing life-threatening will ever happen to our role models.

We know they’ll get older; we know they’ll eventually retire; we know injuries happen, but we’re never prepared for life-altering changes in the midst of their careers.

Letang’s story is just another reminder that being a professional athlete doesn’t make you invincible.

On Monday morning, Letang returned to practice for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Though many of us have an opinion on what we think should happen with Letang, it’s best if we leave it to the professionals and just enjoy that he’s back to doing what he loves.

A new father, Letang took a fair amount of heat for making his story public. He wanted to send a message to young families everywhere that these types of things can happen. Whether you agree or disagree with his decision to allow the public in on his personal life, you have to respect it.

Professional athletes live under a microscope every day. Letang had every right in the world to want his condition hidden – the Penguins organization has the power to make that happen – but instead he decided to let the world know about his painful and incredulous secret.

It’s as unselfish of a move as it gets – sharing personal details hoping it will help others.

Letang is not yet cleared to play, and there is additional testing he must pass before he’ll put on his game jersey. It’s going to be a question of what-ifs for writers and fans alike until the day his name is printed again on the official roster, but until then, we should be thankful for the strides that Letang is making.

He isn’t rushing his treatment; he isn’t asking for sympathy; he’s simply doing what he loves.

The sports world would be a better place if more people were like Letang. He’s handled the scariest situation in his life so far with ease. Many of us probably wouldn’t have the willpower to do the same.

One moment he was a Norris Trophy candidate, the next he was motionless on his bedroom floor. It’s terrifying how fast life can change.

People worried about Letang practicing need to rethink the situation. Leave it to the doctors. He won’t play a game until doctors say he is ready, I can guarantee you that.

If you truly think about where he was seven weeks ago, we should all just be happy that he is back on the ice with his hair still flowing gracefully.

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