TAMPA, Fla. — The closest feeling Kris Versteeg has had to becoming a father was winning a Stanley Cup.
“You’re in shock. You can’t really understand what’s going on. And you can’t comprehend it until you take a step back,” the Chicago Blackhawks forward explained Wednesday of his two life-changing moments.
“And four or five hours later, when you finally hold him… it’s pretty remarkable.”
Jaxson James Versteeg weighs seven pounds and nine ounces, or 27 pounds and 11 ounces less than the trophy Versteeg held on June 9, 2010—a date he can’t forget because it’s tattooed on his arm. Versteeg’s first son will be one day old when the puck drops in Tampa for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
And Versteeg nearly missed the birth.
Preparing to jet off to Tampa for the Final on Monday, Versteeg received a phone call that his wife would need to be induced. Two seconds later, he called the Blackhawks, whom he thanks for rushing him to the hospital to be at his wife’s side.
“My main focus at the time was the health of the kid, and my other main focus is winning a Stanley Cup,” said Versteeg, 29.
The proud new dad was up all night for the birth, welcomed Jaxson, then flew to Tampa at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to rejoin his teammates.
“It’s been a whirlwind. In hockey I’ve been fortunate to be part of some great things, but nothing really compares to the birth of your child,” Versteeg said.
“It’s been exciting and intoxicating, but now it’s about getting ready for hockey.”
Unfortunately for the veteran winger, getting ready is all he’s been doing of late. A casualty of Chicago’s deep bench, Versteeg managed to see ice in only one game of the Western Conference Final. He has scored once in seven playoff games this post-season but has been scratched for nine games.
His attitude, however, remains upbeat.
“You always want to be on the ice and helping the team win every way you can,” he said. “For me, it’s staying ready for the opportunity.”
Regardless which team holds the Cup this month, the father might want to ink a second date on his arm.
“I only got to see him for a couple hours, but it was worth it,” Versteeg said. “Tough to leave the guy.”