An estimated 10,000 fans of the Saint John Sea Dogs flooded King's Square, the Market Square boardwalk and lined King and Charlotte streets in downtown Saint John Tuesday afternoon to pay tribute to their boys for bringing home the President's Cup and the Memorial Cup.
Local reports had police blocking off parts of 10 streets for the parade that, according to Sgt. Rick Caswell of the Saint John Police Force, was the largest gathering of people on the city streets since 2001 when a parade was held for the Calder Cup-winning Saint John Flames.
|Sea Dogs Steven Anthony, Mike Thomas enjoy Parade|
"It was unbelievable," forward Ryan Tesink told NHL.com. "We felt like Gods. We had about six vehicles, including a fire truck, and three or four of us each were on one. We're not the biggest city and in the middle of the day on a Tuesday … I was impressed. I grew up (in Saint John) my whole life."
Nathan Beaulieu (Courtesy: Saint John Sea Dogs)
Tesink, the fourth-line forward who struck for 35 points in 59 regular-season games for the Sea Dogs, was also the focus of one of the more noticeable signs amidst the sea of blue and white colors.
"One sign out there read, "Tesink for Mayor", said the 5-foot-11, 157 pound Tesink. "I thought that was funny and the boys loved that one. I was so proud to be a St. Johner during that parade. I couldn't believe the support. We had about 500 fans come to the final (in Mississauga) and everyone flew or some drove and spent a lot of money to watch us win that (Memorial Cup). That means the world to me."
Three men dressed in blue spandex suits, perhaps descendants of the green men milling around at Vancouver Canucks hockey games, ran along the parade route prior to the players making their presence.
"It was incredible," defenseman Nathan Beaulieu said. "It was good to get back to all of the fans for all their support all year and it was nice to just bring the Cup home. I was on the top of a fire truck looking over the whole city, so that was pretty cool. You see people and then see more people and you just feel like the parade went on forever. It's a moment I'll never forget."
"I didn't really know what to expect because sometimes some of those things can be a little bit boring," Zack Phillips said. "But that was anything but boring. It was a beautiful day and we're all in shorts and T-shirts and sunglasses, on top of fire trucks, honking horns and sitting on convertibles or in the backs of SUV's just having an unbelievable time. The support they showed was amazing … we were taking videos of the crowd and ourselves. It was fantastic."
Jonathan Huberdeau, who was named the tournament's MVP after collecting 3 goals and 6 points in 4 games, was overwhelmed.
The 18-year-old from St-Jerome, Quebec, ranked No. 3 by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters, had a goal and one assist in the 3-1 Championship Final victory over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors on May 29.
"It was nice to see all the fans in Saint John," Huberdeau said. " It was nice to share the Cup. The people were waving at you and congratulating you and that they care about you. Our fans deserved that and to share it with them was nice."
Six players, including Huberdeau, Beaulieu, Phillips, Tesink, Tomas Jurco and Scott Oke, arrived in Toronto for the NHL Scouting Combine on Wednesday. Each had several interviews scheduled Wednesday and Thursday.
Phillips (upper body injury) said he wouldn't be participating in the bench press portion of the fitness testing on Friday, but admitted there's a good chance he and his teammates will be taking part in the bike tests. Unlike most other players participating at the Combine, the Sea Dogs and Majors went the distance this season -- finishing up on the last possible day (May 29) before the start of the Combine (on May 30).
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale