Last Sunday, the Stanley Cup visited Monarchs Country for the third time in its 120-year history. Thousands of fans turned out to see the legendary trophy which has been touring around the world since June with Los Angeles Kings players, coaches and executives following the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Championship in team history.
The Manchester Monarchs have been the top affiliate of the Kings since their inception into the American Hockey League in 2001. The Monarchs impact on the Kings’ Championship has been well documented both locally and nationally with 14 players having laced up the skates in Manchester prior to hoisting the Stanley Cup.
“If it was not for the Monarchs we would not have won the Cup,” said Kings President of Business Operations and Hockey Hall of Fame player Luc Robitaille. “All of our young guys that came up, (Jordan) Nolan, (Dwight) King, Slava Voynov and it goes on and on. I mean, Dustin Brown played (in Manchester). There are just so many guys and these guys learned to play the game with Mark (Morris) and Hubie (McDonough) and then they come up and they are ready to play for us. We are very thankful but we wanted to make sure the fans that follow the Monarchs understood that. For us, we know we would not have the success we have had without this team and organization and fans.
“It has been amazing. It is amazing to see the crowd. I was overwhelmed just to drive in and see the crowd, I could not believe it. It went all the way around the block. It is pretty neat to see. I was surprised. I have to admit I did not expect that.”
The Stanley Cup draws a large crowd wherever it goes. On Sunday, the trophy saw over 2,000 people come to the Verizon Wireless Arena to catch a glimpse of the cup.
“You look at it, three feet high and 35 pounds but if it could talk, it would be a best seller,” said Keeper of the Cup Phil Pritchard. “I guess the word ‘respect’, people have it as fans, as players, management have it. It is the greatest trophy in all of sports. I think respect is probably a great word for it. You see the people here. They are all excited. The emotions are powerful but most of all, they are all grateful for this great sport and what it has provided the people in Manchester this year.”
The atmosphere of the fans that turned out was electric. For some it was a moment they had been waiting for a long time to experience.
“It is a life long goal to see it in person,” said long time Monarchs fan Joe Comforti. “We are out here every year supporting the team. I was so happy to see L.A. win and I knew in my heart and I said ‘I hope they bring the Cup to Manchester because that gentleman (Luc Robitaille) said it best (in his Cup Rally speech). This is where it started. This is where the guys come to play and where they learn the game. It is great to see it pay off for L.A.”
Part of what makes the Stanley Cup so appealing is the trophy’s uniqueness and extensive hockey history.
“The Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in sports,” said Robitaille. “There is nothing like it. There is only one. Each player gets it and there is so much tradition. It is almost over 120-years-old now and it has so much history. If it could talk it would have amazing stories and there is nothing else like it. To a certain point, the game of hockey is such a high level but the Stanley Cup stands on its own. It is such a special trophy and it makes it unbelievable any time you can see it live.”
It was important for the Kings organization to make sure Monarchs Country received a chance to see it live and to know they were a large part of the historic achievement.
“It is one organization and we take a lot of pride in being one family,” said Robitaille. “This meant a lot to Dean Lombardi to bring it here and Ron Hextall because they understand how much work everybody has done here.”
Monarchs Country had their day with the Stanley Cup on Sunday and it continued to travel the last few days, going to Cape Cod, Massachusetts on Sunday and up to Canada for a couple stops before it gets engraved.
“We are heading up to Canada on Thursday, it actually goes to get engraved,” said Pritchard. “The 2011-12 Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings are going to get their names on it. It takes about a week to do that and then we will keep our fingers crossed and hope for the home opener.”
Follow the Manchester Monarchs on Twitter - @Monarchshockey
Photo via @Keeperofthecup