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Johnny Utah

by Doug Ward / Los Angeles Kings

The state of Utah is home to five national parks, countless Olympic skiers, and, in John Stockton and Karl Malone, two Hall of Fame basketball players. But only one Stanley Cup champion can call the Beehive State home.

Trevor Lewis of the Kings, one of just four Utahns to play in the NHL, is both pioneer and local hero in his native state.

“We’re so proud of him,” Utah Governor Gary Herbert said last summer at an event with Lewis and the Stanley Cup at the State Capitol. “A two-time Stanley Cup winner representing Utah, not only on the ice but in other aspects of his life.”

Lewis, who was born in Salt Lake City in 1987, was always a bit of an outlier in his Cottonwood Heights neighborhood. While most of the locals were virtually born on skis, Trevor was on skates by the age of two.

Trevor’s father, Randy, is a passionate hockey fan and recreational player who bought his house based on location, location, location: it was located right across the street from the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center ice rink.

Proximity turned Lewis into a rink rat, a rarity among the skiers and snowboarders. For a time, the paucity of hockey playing kids in Utah actually worked to Lewis’ advantage.

“When I was young,” the 29-year-old Lewis says, “we only had 10 guys on the team, so you got a lot more playing time. That’s kind of what you need when you are young.”

Ultimately, the state of Utah was unable to contain Lewis and his hockey dreams. Trevor played one year of club hockey at Brighton High School, then outgrew the local competition and left home to play against more advanced players for an elite-level team in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Lewis spent two seasons with the Pikes Peak Miners before being drafted by the Cedar Rapids of the United States Hockey League. After being cut by Cedar Rapids, Lewis was set to play for Texarkana (Texas) of the North American Hockey League when the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL picked him up.

Lewis loves Utah, but leaving home turned out to be one of the best moves of his career.

“Hockey wasn’t very big there when I was growing up,” Lewis says. “To get anywhere, you had to move away. But when I go back, it’s crazy to see how much it’s grown over the past 5-6 years.”  
At least some of that growth can be attributed to the example set by Lewis. He became the first native of a state more famous for a Salt Lake than for frozen ones to have his name engraved on the Lord Stanley’s Cup two seasons ago, then repeated the feat last spring. The only other Utahns to take part in two championships in a major sports league are football’s Jim McMahon (1985 Bears, 1996 Packers), and Fred Sanford (1949, 50 NY Yankees). Richard Bachman, Steve Konowalchuk, and Dylan Olsen, all Salt Lake City natives, are the only other Utahns to have played in the NHL.

Though Lewis was raised in a relative hockey wilderness, he came by his passion honestly. Lewis’ interest in hockey can be traced directly to his Canadian-born grandparents.

“They were both Canadian and they got my dad into hockey, and got the whole family into hockey,” Trevor says.

When Lewis’ grandparents, Paul and Barbara Lewis, left Calgary for Salt Lake City in 1964, it helped set Trevor’s destiny in motion.

Twice in the last three summers, Lewis has spent part of his day with the Stanley Cup honoring his grandparents and the influence they had on his career’s unprecedented path. Lewis made sure honoring his grandparents was included in his Cup celebration; he took took the Cup to his grandparents’ gravesite, where he offered a toast before sipping on his grandfather’s favorite Canadian whisky.

“They would have loved it, so we wanted to share the Stanley Cup with them,” Lewis says. “It was a pretty special moment.”

Lewis has known his share of special moments. In 2012, it was Lewis who sealed the Kings’ first championship. He had two goals against New Jersey in the decisive Game 6, including an empty-netter at 16:51 that gave the Kings an insurmountable 5-1 lead and, symbolically at least, clinched the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Although Lewis is considered a (versatile) role player, he has a knack for producing big plays in crucial games. He had four goals in last year’s playoffs and three in the Kings’ run to the 2012 Cup.

One of Lewis’ biggest plays was an assist on a pivotal goal that helped the Kings eliminate Vancouver in overtime of Game 5, launching them on their magical ride through the 2012 postseason.

The box score shows the game-winning goal was scored by Jarret Stoll with a top-shelf goal on Cory Schneider at 4:27, but the play was set in motion when Lewis delivered a hit on Canuck defenseman Dan Hamhuis, then stole the puck and fed Stoll.

“I was just trying to stay on (Dan) Hamhuis,” Lewis recalls. “I got his stick and took the puck to Stollie, who made a great shot. That closed out the overtime game and closed out the series, so it was definitely one of the better plays for me.”

Back when Lewis was growing up in Utah, the state’s only professional hockey team was the minor league Utah Grizzlies that played in the International Hockey League. Today the Grizzlies play in the ECHL.

When Lewis was 15 years old in 2002, the Winter Olympics came to Salt Lake City. Trevor attended a handful of games and the experience was life altering. By the time the United States and Canada squared off in the gold medal game, Lewis had seen enough to know he wanted to dedicate his life to hockey.

“That was a great experience,” Lewis says.

So deep are Lewis’ ties to Utah, that during the NHL lockout of 2012-13, he returned home to play for the Grizzlies. In six games in own backyard, Lewis scored three goals and assisted on nine others.

Lewis calls the experience a “big honor.”

The people of Utah would say the same thing.

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