PHILADELPHIA -- It is the greatest tradition in professional sports, reaching back to former Detroit Red Wings great Ted Lindsay 60 years ago. Since 1950, the captain from the Stanley Cup Champion has been presented with the Cup in a center-ice ceremony. At 22, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews received the Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Wednesday night, after three tight periods and another four-plus minutes of virtually breathless overtime.
Toews is the second youngest captain in NHL history to hoist the Stanley Cup. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins was 21 when he won the Cup last spring.
After Toews lifted the Cup and a childhood dream along with it, he next carried out the tradition traversing generations of NHL players by first passing the Stanley Cup to Marian Hossa, who had suffered crushing defeats in the last two Stanley Cup Final series, with the Red Wings in 2009 and the Penguins in 2008.
Hossa then shared hockey's ultimate prize with first-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Sharp, who then passed it on to defenseman Brent Sopel, an 11-season veteran and another first-time champion.
Only three Blackhawks had previously won the Cup, and one of those players -- John Madden, a two-time winner with the New Jersey Devils (2000 and 2003) was next in the procession to skate with the Cup aloft. Defenseman Duncan Keith, a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the League's outstanding defenseman this season and a member of Canada's gold medal team at the 2010 Olympics, became just the sixth player in NHL history to win both Olympic Gold and the Stanley Cup in the same year (he is joined on the list by Blackhawks teammates Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook). Keith received the Cup from Madden and brought it close to a section of delirious Blackhawks fans in the stands at Wachovia Center. Keith's partner on the Blackhawks' blue line, Seabrook, was next up before passing it to another first-time winner, Dave Bolland.
Ten-year NHL veteran Nick Boynton got to realize his lifelong dream next by lifting the 35-pound trophy aloft for the first time in his career. Yet another first-time winner and 10-year NHL veteran, defenseman Brian Campbell, was next in the procession and followed by Andrew Ladd, who won the Cup for the second time in his career (Carolina, 2006). Ladd passed the Cup on to another two-time winner, Slovakian native Tomas Kopecky (Detroit, 2008), who erased the heartbreak of losing in seven games a year ago to the Penguins.
A pair of five-year NHL veterans, each experiencing the thrill of winning the Cup for the first time in their careers -- bruising forwards Ben Eager and Dustin Byfuglien -- were next up as the Cup made its way back down the ice for fourth time in the procession.
Patrick Kane, whose overtime goal gave the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup title in 49 years, received the trophy from Byfuglien, his linemate for much of the season.
Next up: Forward Kris Versteeg followed by steady defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and forward Adam Burish.
Then Finnish goaltender Antti Niemi, who had not won a hockey championship at any level since turning pro in Finland's second division in 2001-02, was able to realize hockey's ultimate dream.
The Cup went next to Troy Brouwer and backup goalie Cristobal Huet, followed by Colin Fraser, Jordan Hendry and Jake Dowell, none of whom dressed for Game 6. After the players, the procession finished with Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz and coach Joel Quenneville, who won the Cup previously as an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996.