The 2010–2011 NHL season was by most accounts a success for Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team reached the Eastern Conference Finals, falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in seven games. Last season was the Lightning's most successful since Stamkos, 21, joined the team as the first overall pick in 2008. But in his first three seasons as a pro, the Markham, Ont., native had already been racking up individual accolades, including winning the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2009–2010 for leading the league in goals (51 goals, tied with Sidney Crosby). And last year he was named to the All-Star team for the first time. Stamkos's achievements on the ice have now led to a unique honour off the ice: newly minted cover boy of EA Sports NHL 12. We spoke with Stamkos at the video game's launch to learn more about his training tricks and get his advice for aspiring athletes. Did you play this video game growing up? “Since I was about six years old it was probably on top of the Christmas list. I still play it. The guys on the team take the Xbox to the cities we travel to on the road. I thought it was pretty cool a couple of years ago when the game came out and I was in it for the first time as a character.” Do you have any pre-game superstitions? “We play this cool kind of hybrid soccer-volleyball game. We got to make sure we get that in before every game.” Soccer-volleyball? “We use two bicycle gates for a net. We serve [the ball], but everything’s at your feet. It’s soccer rules – headers, chest, feet – but it’s trying to smash [the ball] over. We got pretty good at it and got some good rallies going. We get competitive, and there have been a couple of injuries, a couple of heads colliding at the net or a foot to the face. It loosens us up before the game and gets us ready.” How do you motivate yourself to work out when you just don’t feel like doing it? “I’m not going to lie and say I wake up every morning with a smile on my face ready to go to the gym. There are days when your body is sore, you’re tired or you didn’t sleep well. You just have to realize that if you don’t do it you will fall a step behind. You have to try and find that edge. You know you’re going to the gym to get better, and that’s motivation in itself.” What training advice do you have for young athletes? “The key word for young kids is fun. I always found it great to play other sports. I didn’t stick to hockey until I was 14, 15 years old. Before that I played soccer, lacrosse and baseball and got to experience those other sports and make a lot of friends. I think each of those sports helps you become better at hockey, whether it’s conditioning or hand-eye coordination. When you’re young, you’re not going to be going to the gym and lifting weights. Playing those other sports is going to keep you fit and motivated, and keep that competitive nature to your game. As long as you’re having fun at what you’re doing, you should be OK.” [HTML1] You’ve already had a ton of highlights in only three seasons. Have there been any embarrassing moments on the ice? “[Last season] I had a penalty shot against Pittsburgh and fell and didn’t get the shot away. Thank God we were already losing 5-0 at the time so it didn’t have any effect on the outcome of the game.” Is there an athlete you'd like to spend five minutes with?