Flames family lends support to Matt and Katie Stajan after death of their son
Teammates and wives trying to help NHL veteran and his wife come to grips with tragedy
The couples — Brian McGrattan and wife Michelle, Matt Stajan and wife Katie — are close enough to have holidayed together during the recent Olympic break.
And their time in Hawaii, by all accounts, had been great.
“They were so excited and everything,” McGrattan, tough-guy of the Calgary Flames, said of the Stajans.
Then tragedy struck.
“What happened to them . . . 99 per cent of us will never be able to relate to that,” said McGrattan. “But we can be here as great teammates, great friends, and be there for support. We have a tight-knit group of guys here. We all have each other’s back. We’re there for him. He’s a big part of this team. He’s a big part of everybody’s life in here. Whatever they need, we’re there for them.”
The Flames had announced Sunday that the Stajans’ son Emerson died following childbirth a week ago.
“Michelle’s been over there quite a bit with Katie,” said McGrattan. “All the wives and girlfriends are very close on this team, which is kind of rare from what I’ve seen. They’re all friends. Everyone gets along. Everybody’s kind of a big family here.”
With the club’s blessing, Stajan is on personal leave.
He’s missed five games, but there’s certainly no rush for him to return.
“I told Matty that hockey is non-existent right now,” coach Bob Hartley said. “Whenever he’s ready to come (back), it’s his call. We’re going to wait for him. Absolutely, there’s no timetable. I’ve talked to Matty several times. I know the players have talked to him also. The wives are taking great care of Katie. It’s very sad. It’s very sad. Unfortunately, as we see, there’s not much we can control.
“At the same time, it’s a reminder that this is just a game.”
And it’s a reminder that hockey players aren’t necessarily special.
“Everyone thinks we’re different because we’re professional athletes,” said McGrattan. “But we’re all human, too. Life hits us just like life hits everybody else. Unfortunately, something happened to Staje that none of us will ever go through. Such a devastating blow to everyone who’s close to him.
“Obviously, they’re going to have their time alone. Everybody respects that. It’s going to be tough for them.”
The Flames players had been informed of the heartbreaking development before their March 3 date in Minnesota.
“It was tough on the guys, it was tough news to get,” said Michael Cammalleri. “For us, they’re intertwined — life and hockey. You make these relationships through hockey and you have these great friendships. It’s just really hard to see a friend go through something like that. It’s tragic. I know a lot of people in this world who have dealt with tragedy . . . and you do the best to support them.”
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald