LONDON, Ontario -- Drew Doughty's grandfather, Edward, was the first family member to pull up to his driveway Thursday morning. The 74-year-old didn't show up empty-handed, either. He carried with him a clear, homemade jug of white wine with a Guelph Storm logo painted on the side of it, "holy water" for hockey's holy grail, he called it.
"He was lucky to win and lucky to be here," Edward said, before playfully poking fun at his advanced age. "I feel pretty lucky to be here too."
It was a special day for Doughty, the Los Angeles Kings' 22-year-old defenseman who had his day with the Stanley Cup two months after his team won hockey's biggest prize for the first time in franchise history. But long before Doughty paraded the Cup through his hometown, long before his brilliant goal in Game 2 of the Final against the New Jersey Devils, and long before he was drafted by the Kings in 2008 after a stellar career at Guelph, he was relying on extended and adopted family to get his career started.
Doughty's AAA midget team was the London Junior Knights. He clearly had the talent to play, but he lacked two things all children are missing and are required for playing hockey -- the money for expensive equipment and a vehicle to get to and from the rink for early-morning practices.
Doughty's parents, Connie and Paul, wanted their son to play the game he loved, but they both worked and couldn't afford the necessary pads and skates and sticks needed to play.
That's when Doughty's grandparents, Connie's mother and father, came to the rescue.
"My grandparents, without them, I wouldn't be where I am today," Doughty told NHL.com. "They would drive me to 6 a.m. practices. They were the reason I could even play AAA hockey. My parents couldn't afford it. If it wasn't for my grandparents, I couldn't even play AAA hockey. It means so much to me and I'm really happy to be here to enjoy this day."
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"My dad did a lot for Drew," Connie said, her voice cracking. "He took him to morning practices and did a lot for him. They did a lot for us as a family because it's a very expensive sport."
As important as Doughty's grandparents were, two people who weren't related to him may have been even more important in helping him achieve his NHL dreams.
At 15, Doughty left London to play for Guelph of the OHL. That meant living there full-time with his billet parents, Alex and Nancy Campbell. The Campbells have been taking in players for years, sometimes having two teenagers living with them at once.
But of all the players who have lived with the Campbells, Doughty might've made the most memorable first impression.
"The first day he walked in, Alex was on a fishing trip," Nancy said. "So his parents dropped him off, he sat on the couch, grabbed the remote and started flicking through the channels."
While the Campbells were impressed with Doughty's ability to acclimate himself to their home, he didn't exactly wow them in his first practice with Guelph and coach Dave Barr, who is an assistant with the Devils team Doughty just helped defeat in the Final in six games.
"At the first intrasquad scrimmage they had right after the draft, he wasn't very good," Alex said. "But the second day of camp, I actually knew Dave Barr and we met downstairs before the boys went outside, he was just shaking his head saying, 'How good is he?' You could tell right away he was there and he was ready."
The Campbells currently have opened her home to Tyler Bertuzzi, the nephew of NHL forward Todd Bertuzzi.
"As far as billet parents, [Drew] couldn't have had two better parents to guide him at 15 years old when he left home right through when he made the NHL at 18," Connie said. "They're tremendous people. They have great values and continued the values we instilled in him. They made sacrifices for him, who was a nobody to them when he first arrived at their home. They're part of our family and always will be."
Every hockey player who has won the Stanley Cup will say how it's a dream come true, something he thought about since he was a child. In Doughty's case, he is one of the few who can say his dream came true in the jersey he imagined wearing.
Most hockey fans think of Wayne Gretzky as an Edmonton Oilers star, but Doughty was born about a year after the Great One was traded to the Kings. Gretzky's first eight seasons in Los Angeles almost overlapped Doughty's first eight years of life, so the boy who grew up two hours from the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs became a Kings fan thanks to Gretzky.
When Doughty played hockey at that time, he wore a Gretzky jersey that still hangs in his childhood bedroom. But it didn't always hang there after he outgrew it. Connie brought it with her to the 2008 NHL Draft in Ottawa where the Kings held the second pick, just in case Doughty was taken by his favorite team.
But Doughty, like any typical 18-year-old, didn't want to be embarrassed by his mother and begged her to leave the jersey in the hotel room that day. Connie obliged, but regretted it immediately when at Scotiabank Place a Kings official asked her to bring the jersey to the stage before the pick was made official.
Sadly, she informed the official she didn't have the tiny Gretzky jersey with her.
The Kings still went through with the pick after, as Connie tells it, they joked the deal was off because she left the jersey behind. Four years later, there was Doughty back home in his bedroom lying in his bed with the Stanley Cup, his head resting on a Kings pillow case with a Kings telephone on the night stand, the Gretzky jersey hanging a few feet away.
"This is surreal," said Doughty, who then went downstairs and draped his 2010 Olympic gold medal around the Stanley Cup in his parents' back yard. "To grow up here and sleep here and have the Cup here … it's surreal. I don't know what else to say.
"It's surprising the dream came true, but it's something you dream about as a little kid playing hockey. It's all you want."
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