The day after Dustin Penner personally escorted the Stanley Cup through his hometown of Winkler, Manitoba for the second time in five years, teammate Mike Richards brought the Cup to a town that had gone more than 100 years without a Cup celebration. And he made sure to pay tribute to the last group of Cup-winners from his hometown of Kenora, Ontario.
The weekend started with Penner -- who first won the Cup with Anaheim in 2007 -- getting his second day with the Cup in his hometown of Winkler, located about 80 miles south of Winnipeg and just minutes from the border with North Dakota. It was there that the Kings winger enjoyed a day of golf with the Cup before taking a limo to a public event hosted by the Southland Mall. Hundreds of locals, some of whom had been camping out for three hours, descended on the mall for a chance to be photographed with Penner and the Cup. With August 17, 2012 officially declared "Dustin Penner Day," it was another special day in Winkler.
Stoll visited two separate rinks, held numerous public events, and ended with a banquet with about 1,100 guests. And all this was between two southeastern Saskatchewan towns -- Neudorf and Yorkton -- separated by about 50 miles. So it's pretty telling that Stoll's first stop of the day was to his grandparents' house.
In fact, Stoll's day with the Cup began with a big hug from his grandmother, Doreen, who hosted a brief party at her home in the morning, along with Stoll's grandfather, Wilbert. The pair has been a huge part of Jarret's upbringing, hosting the entire Stoll clan during holidays and attending many of their grandson's youth games. Before those games, the pair would promise to pay Jarret a dollar for every goal he scored, a proposal that got expensive as Jarret developed into a young hockey star. Jarret even picked his number, 28, because his grandfather was born in 1928.
In a day when hundreds of people shared in Jarret's celebration with the Cup, the Kings forward, who came one win short of a Cup win with the Edmonton Oilers in 2006, made sure to reserve plenty of time with family. There was a photo session featuring the Cup and Stoll's family at an area studio and a constant Stoll family presence throughout the day.
But it all started Thursday morning with a special visit to the home of Wilbert and Doreen Stoll.
With 13 different Los Angeles Kings players and staff members hailing from Ontario, Canada's most populous province will see plenty of the Stanley Cup this summer. But Saskatchewan is getting three days of its own this week with hockey's holy grail, more than any Canadian province other than Ontario.
Not bad for a province with a population of just over 1 million -- and one that went without a Cup visit last summer.
It started Tuesday in Saskatoon, where Kings scout Brent McEwen received the Cup. While McEwen enjoyed plenty of private time with the trophy in his hometown, the real celebration began when he brought it to the University of Saskatchewan's Rutherford Rink, a historic facility that opened in 1929.
As a former hockey player, manager and coach for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, it was the perfect homecoming for McEwen, who also served for seven years as general manager of the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League before joining the Kings in 2004. With McEwen's daughter getting married last Saturday, it was an eventful week for the family.
Bill Ranford won the Stanley Cup twice as a player with the Edmonton Oilers, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1990. But those wins predated the modern tradition entitling members of the Stanley Cup-winning team to a day with the trophy. So when Ranford won another Cup, this time as the Los Angeles Kings' goaltending coach, the town of New Westminster, British Columbia knew it was going to have a big celebration this summer.
Monday was already scheduled to be a big day for the town located in the eastern part of the metro Vancouver area. Anne Callaghan, the United States Consul General, was scheduled to visit the office of Mayor Wayne Wright that day. But when the Cup was delivered to Ranford around noon, Callaghan's visit was likely overshadowed.
Kings' goaltending coach Bill Ranford poses for a photo on his day with the Stanley Cup. (Photo: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI)
For his efforts with Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who himself won the Conn Smythe for his outstanding play, Ranford received the Cup in the town known as "the Royal City" and immediately enjoyed private time among friends and family. From there, Ranford delivered the Cup around 4 p.m. to the local Queen's Park Arena, where fans had been lined up for three hours to get a chance to see the Cup. A photographer took photos of locals, who got to pose with the Cup in exchange for a small donation to the local hockey program.
After two hours at the arena, Ranford hosted a private party with the Cup, which was scheduled to spend time on Tuesday with Kings scout Brent McEwen in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
To Ranford's credit, this wasn't his first Cup unveiling in New Westminster. In 2004, shortly before coming on as a goaltending coach with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, Ranford lobbied the Hockey Hall of Fame for a day with the Cup. Taking into consideration his two wins as a player, the Hall of Fame gave Ranford and New Westminster their day with the Cup. Eight years later, the pair made a triumphant return to the Royal City.
PORT McNEILL, B.C. -- For Willie Mitchell, it wasn't enough to thank the tiny town that raised and nurtured him -- as both a hockey player and young man -- during his one day with the Stanley Cup.
For the veteran defenseman of the Los Angeles Kings, it was important to also honor the First Nation community that continues to stoke his spiritual side every summer as he searches for balance through the area's incredible natural surroundings, away from the pressures of being a professional athlete.
For Mitchell, 35, it was important to thank the entire north end of Vancouver Island -- even if the effort left him worn out for the little private time remaining.
So Mitchell split the bulk of a long day with the Stanley Cup between his hometown of Port McNeill and at the 'Namgis First Nation in Alert Bay on nearby Cormorant Island. In Port McNeill, Mitchell posed for pictures in the arena where he learned to skate with a crowd estimated at approximately 6,000 – more than double the population of the little logging town.
PORT MCNEILL, B.C. -- Willie Mitchell and the Stanley Cup have been left behind temporarily at the community arena in Port McNeill, where the last few thousand fans waited for their chance to get a group picture with the guests of honor.
The rest of the Mitchell entourage, including grandfather Les, who was once invited to training camp with the New York Rangers in the Original Six era, is already aboard three different boats bound for Alert Bay on a nearby Island.
Mitchell and the Cup will take a helicopter over a bit later for a traditional ceremony at the Namgis First Nation Longhouse. But it's not like Mitchell, an avid fisherman, hasn't had a chance to take the Cup out onto the ocean that is such a big part of his life and this small community on the northern end of Vancouver Island.
The Los Angeles Kings' defenseman woke his father, Reid, with a 3:30 a.m. call to take the Stanley Cup fishing, a trip that left other family members with blood from the day's catch still on their clothes during the morning ceremony at the arena, and left more than a few tourists out on whale watching expeditions shocked to see hockey's famous trophy out in a boat in the wee hours.
PORT MCNEILL, B.C. -- With a population listed just over 2,600 people, it's safe to say traffic jams aren't the norm for the town of Port McNeill.
But with Willie Mitchell bringing the Stanley Cup to the north end of Vancouver Island on Sunday, the lineups were as long as that big stick the Los Angeles Kings defenseman uses to poke the puck away from top NHL forwards.
Organizers were expecting up to 7,000 people to see Mitchell and the Cup, more than doubling the population of the oceanside fishing and logging town Mitchell grew up in -- and still returns to every summer. The local arena was already overflowing, with lineups winding in every direction out the door, more than half an hour before Mitchell and the Cup were expected to arrive by helicopter in an adjacent field.
With so many people eager to see both, the plan was to bring people into the arena 50 to 75 at a time for group photos before Mitchell flies it to Alert Bay on a nearby island for another afternoon ceremony.
The day after Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi enjoyed idyllic weather for his day with the Stanley Cup in Ludlow, Mass., defenseman Matt Greene didn't have the same luck when he received the trophy Friday morning in Grand Ledge, Mich.
But despite some torrential rains and a sudden change of schedule, it was still a special day for Greene and his hometown.
The day began with Greene presenting the Cup to a group of local military veterans and emergency services staff in Grand Ledge, located a few miles from the campus of Michigan State University in Lansing. The plan for the afternoon originally called for a parade through town, allowing residents to catch a glimpse of the Cup. But thunderstorms and high winds forced the town to cancel the parade. With the weather not cooperating, Greene and the Cup were instead shuttled to an event at the local high school.
From the looks of the monstrous crowd at Grand Ledge High School, where Greene graduated in 2001, it didn’t take long for the residents to learn about the change in plans. By the time Greene and the Cup arrived at the high school gym, fans were reportedly already lining up to have a moment with the most iconic trophy in sports.
After three hours there, Greene was scheduled to visit a number of businesses around Grand Ledge before ending his day with the Cup among friends and family.
It's amazing how much things can change in a matter of months. For Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, the 2011-12 season ended on such a high note with the franchise's first Stanley Cup win that it's easy to forget the team's tumultuous regular season.
Just under a year ago, the Kings were opening the season in Europe with one of their best players, defenseman Drew Doughty, holding out for a new contract. Eventually head coach Terry Murray was replaced with Lombardi's former coach in San Jose, Darryl Sutter. That's a lot for any team to deal with in just half a season.
"[Last season] was really hard in a lot of ways. Starting out with Drew, it was frustrating not having a top player in your camp. Then going to Europe, you're not sure how it affects your team with the travel," Lombardi told NHL.com. "Making that [coaching] change was very difficult, but fortunately I had a man like Darryl who I knew was willing to do it. What he did speaks for itself."
In all the drama surrounding the Kings' first half last season, Lombardi didn't escape unscathed, either. Leading up to the NHL trade deadline, there was some speculation that his job could be in jeopardy if he didn't make a significant addition to a team that ranked near the bottom in League scoring. But for a longtime executive mentored by Cup winners like Bill Torrey, Bob Clarke and Lou Lamoriello, that speculation didn't mean much.
"Whether it was Clarkey or Torrey or Lou Lamoriello, they would pound that into you. You can't listen to it. You're a pro, you can't let it affect your judgment. At this stage of my career, it really didn't affect me. I've been trained so well," Lombardi said. "They're very single-minded men who aren't going to be influenced by things they don't believe. Early in my career, it might have [been a distraction]. But I guess that just comes with experience."
In the end, Lombardi was able to acquire Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline and the rest is hockey history. And with the entire Cup-winning roster returning for a chance to repeat, Lombardi sees an opportunity for the Kings to make even more history.
"We're very fortunate to bring everybody back," he said. "We were the fifth- or sixth-youngest team in the League. These guys have to continue to get better. I just talked to Jeff Carter last week, he sounds better than he ever has in terms of conditioning. Dustin Penner is way ahead of schedule.
"They're a great bunch of guys. The bottom line is it's about the players. The way they stuck together, I'm so proud of them."
Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi had the perfect icebreaker for the noticeably pro-Boston Bruins crowd that came out to celebrate the public event he hosted Thursday during his day with the Stanley Cup in his hometown of Ludlow, Mass.
"It's all about you. It's about being able to give back to so many people who did it for me. I just hope you have a great time," Lombardi said. "There's only one problem. Every Bruins jersey has to go in the back."
Lombardi would end up hosting a five-hour photo session with the Cup. For the man known by his hometown buddies as Dean-O, it was just part of giving back to the community that helped raise him.
Local hockey fans gathered to celebrate Dean Lombardi's day with the Stanley Cup in Ludlow, Massachusetts. (Photo: Tal Pinchevsky/NHL.com)
That meant starting the day by bringing the Cup to two local children's hospitals. The incredible perspective that trip provided ultimately set the tone for what would be a day dedicated to the people of Ludlow.
"There was one kid. She was in intensive care and she got up and touched [the Cup] and smiled," Lombardi told NHL.com. "I got so wired I wanted to hit somebody. Sport is about competitiveness. You see kids like that, they send us a message about being competitive. That was really neat."
From there, Lombardi was a fixture at the public event held nearby at Ludlow's Polish-American Citizens Club. Through five hours of posing for pictures and handing out hugs and handshakes, the GM made sure to spend time with the childhood friends he has known for over 40 years. They're some of his most cherished friends, a tight-knit group of one-time hockey brats whose parents, like Lombardi's, worked at the local factories and mills that once dotted Western Massachusetts.
Even decades after first lacing up the skates together, they still laugh at one another's expense, still refer to one another by nicknames like Sponge and Stevie and Eddie Looch. And when Lombardi returned to Ludlow this summer with the Stanley Cup, it was clear from the start that this was a celebration for everyone.
"He never forgot his roots," said Steve Orlik, Lombardi's longtime friend and former minor hockey teammate. "There's an electricity here right now, because it's about the people."
But when the endless crowds finally stopped filing into the public event, Lombardi and his former mates, including a group that won a national championship in 1976 with the Springfield Olympics, took time to honor two people in particular.
The first was Tony Costa, a local legend generally revered around town as the godfather of Ludlow hockey. Lombardi was just one of hundreds of young kids Costa coached in the area over decades. When kids needed a ride, he drove them to the game. When they needed equipment, he found it for them. And when Lombardi and his crew walked the Cup right up to the home of their former coach, the 92-year-old local legend was waiting ecstatically for them on his porch.
"It's hard to describe back then in the Bobby Orr era, when every kid was starting to play. He [Costa] drove the bus, collected the money, got you to the rink, coached you. Everybody knew him in this town," Lombardi said of his mentor. "[We] never forgot what he did."
After spending time with Costa, the group reconvened with the Cup to make one last visit to a friend; a valued teammate who couldn't make it to the day's festivities. That last trip was to the grave site of Gary "Zun" Ziencina, a fixture in the community who lost his battle with cancer in April 2010. Zun's concern for others always stuck with Lombardi, who has tried to impart those values on his players.
"He was the guy who taught me that happiness in life is being happy for someone else. He was so beloved in this town. He would get 10 guys together, but if somebody wasn't having a good time, he wasn't having a good time. He just loved people," Lombardi said. "In life, you say, 'If I had that car or if I just did this or met this person, my life would be complete.' Usually you're disappointed. Winning the Stanley Cup that night was [actually] better [than expected]. He totally would have loved this."
There's no discouragement in that room. There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey.
— Bruins coach Claude Julien on the loss of Zdeno Chara to injury