Hastings native to contend for Stanley Cup
It has been quite a year for Hastings native Derek Stepan.
Now, he and his New York Rangers teammates are vying for the Stanley Cup in a best-of-seven series with the Los Angeles Kings.
And, lastly, in August, he’ll be married to Apple Valley native Stephanie Kent.
“We have a pretty exciting life at our house right now,” said Stepan’s mother Trish Coakley.
Stepan and the Rangers opened the series against the Kings on Wednesday night. The series continues Saturday in Los Angeles, then comes to New York on June 9 and June 11.
Stepan is having a strong postseason for the Rangers. He’s tied for the team lead in points with 13 on five goals and eight assists over 19 games. His playoffs took a dramatic turn in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals when Brandon Prust hit him late and broke his jaw. Stepan had surgery and missed Game 4 but returned for Game 5 and scored two goals.
Stepan’s father intended to be in New York to see that Game 3 against the Canadiens, but his connecting flight in Chicago was cancelled after President Barack Obama came through O’Hare. That meant Stepan had to watch the game from an airport bar.
Stepan’s sister Josie and Coakley, though, were at the game.
“He’s doing good, but it was still scary,” Coakley said. “He got hit late and went down. He got up and he was chirping and talking to the ref. I knew it wasn’t a concussion – he knew enough to be mad.”
Stepan is limited to eating soft foods only, which is a real challenge as he tries to keep his energy up while playing in the grueling playoffs.
“Getting creative with scrambled eggs is tough at a certain point,” Coakley said. “Other than that, he’s doing good.”
Josie Stepan is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and had to balance studying for finals with watching her brother in the playoffs.
“Coming from such a big hockey family, it’s pretty easy to blow off school for a while and watch the game, then go hit the books after it,” she said. “I missed a lot of the beginning of the season with school, but toward the end of the year I was pretty tuned in.”
Her studies have concluded for the year, so she’s planning on traveling to New York to watch some games with her mother and grandfather, Ken LaCroix.
Brad Stepan said he plans on attending Game 3 and Game 4 and then seeing where the series goes from there.
At the high school level, Derek Stepan competed with Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, a sacrifice he knew he had to make, Brad Stepan said.
“All of the sweat and all of the tears and the commitment Derek has made and the sacrifices he’s made – it’s all coming together for him,” he said. “Leaving his community was hard on him, but he knew it was the best thing for his hockey career.”
Brad Stepan, himself a former player and a current high school coach at Rosemount, remembers countless days at the rink with his son.
“Derek’s story is a great story,” he said. “He was never the best Pee Wee. He was never the best bantam. He was never the best high school player, but he takes so much pride in playing all three zones and in being a complete hockey player. He’s a complete hockey player.
Brad Stepan said that while he’s been a big hockey fan for 40-plus years now, he’s never seen a Stanley Cup Final game in person. Now he’ll get that chance and he’ll be watching his son.
“The fact that the first time I go to a Stanley Cup Final game is when my son is in it, it’s kind of fun for me,” He said. “It will be fun to watch him on this stage, that’s for sure.”
During the Olympics in Sochi, much was made in the media about the stray dogs that were seen wandering through the city.
Stepan and Kent adopted one of the dogs, who was named Sochi Jake when they got him. The mixed breed is about 8 or 9 months old, veterinarians say.