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Summer with Stanley

Summer with Stanley

Smith-Pelly has 'awesome' day with Stanley Cup in Toronto

Capitals forward visits kids in hospital, poses for photos with trophy at hometown pub

by Mike Zeisberger @zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO -- A squinting Devante Smith-Pelly couldn't believe what he was seeing through the rain-splashed windows of the van carrying him and the Stanley Cup as they entered his boyhood neighborhood Monday.

Hundreds of umbrella-toting fans, braving deafening claps of thunder, bolts of fork lightning and monsoon-like conditions, were lined up around the corner waiting to squeeze under a canopy and have a photo taken with Smith-Pelly and the Stanley Cup outside Scarborough's Black Dog Pub.

The prodigal son had returned a champion and they wanted to welcome him home, stormy conditions be damned.

 

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"It's crazy," the Washington Capitals forward said. "When I saw it start to rain, I didn't know what to expect. To see the line of people snaked around and down the block, I'm so excited.

"This is so awesome. I mean, you want to bring the Stanley Cup where you grew up. I grew up right down the street from here and used to come here and hang out.

"To bring it to a place you grew up is always fun."

Among the waterlogged fans making their way across the soggy parking lot was forward Chris Stewart, who played with the Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames last season and is an unrestricted free agent. Having known Smith-Pelly for about 14 years, Stewart was proud of how far his pal had come.

Stewart was asked to describe the at-times tumultuous hockey journey Smith-Pelly has made from fringe NHLer to Stanley Cup champion.

"He's come a long way. I'm proud of him," Stewart said, racing for dry shelter with his wife and two kids.

Smith-Pelly's bumpy road to professional hockey first gained traction at age 12 when he met a couple of older kids who shared his dream of one day playing in the NHL. Their names: Chris Stewart and Wayne Simmonds. 

"Wayne and Chris used to live just at the end of this road," Smith-Pelly, 26, said, pointing down the street from the Black Dog Pub. "I used to ride my bike there down from my house and they'd drive me to work out or wherever I had to go. 

"I look up to those guys, I always have, and they've been instrumental in my career and my life, really."

Tweet from @Capitals: .@smithpelly23 spending his cup day with @sickkids Foundation #ALLCAPS #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/oq9omFOqev

Stewart, 30, has 321 points (160 goals, 161 assists) in 652 NHL games. Simmonds, 29, a forward with the Philadelphia Flyers, has 444 points (226 goals, 218 assists) in 762 NHL games.

Smith-Pelly used their success as motivation for his own professional hockey goals. But it hasn't been an easy path.

Selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round (No. 42) of the 2010 NHL Draft, Smith-Pelly, from 2011-17, played with the Ducks, Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils. He signed a two-way contract with the Capitals for 2017-18 and had 16 points in 75 games.

But the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs proved to be his time to shine.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the postseason, matching his regular-season total, none bigger than his tying goal 9:52 into the third period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights that tied the score 3-3. Forward Lars Eller would score the Cup winner, giving the Capitals a 4-3 victory and a 4-1 series win.

Tweet from @keeperofthecup: You know you're a #StanleyCup champion when you have your own ice sculpture. @smithpelly23 @NHL @Capitals @HockeyHallFame pic.twitter.com/enycKOnj7m

Two months later, here he was, back home in the eastern Toronto suburb of Scarborough where his quest had started with Stewart and Simmonds more than a decade earlier. Only this time, he brought the Stanley Cup with him.

"I'm so happy for him," Stewart said. "He stuck it out and now he's on top."

Smith-Pelly's playoff performance helped him get a one-year, $1 million contract with the Capitals. He has 93 points (40 goals, 53 assists) in 341 NHL games.

"There's been some struggles," he said. "But at the same time, I'm not the first guy to go through it and I won't be the last. You can't feel sorry for yourself. You've got to go out there and do what you have to do."

Smith-Pelly started his day by bringing the Stanley Cup to SickKids Hospital in downtown Toronto. By the time he got back to the Black Dog, the skies had opened up. But that didn't deter the fans, including Toronto mayor John Tory, who had also attended the Cup-viewing party of Capitals forward Tom Wilson at North Toronto Memorial Arena on Sunday.

"Like I said to Tom, I told (Smith-Pelly) that he's a Toronto kid who brought the Cup back home," Tory said. "We embrace the accomplishments of our own."

No one was more eager to see Smith-Pelly and the Stanley Cup than Capitals fan Tim Carlson, who was in the parking lot of the Black Dog at 8 a.m., almost six hours prior to the event. 

He was joined by girlfriend Jessica Price and his daughter Zoey, just 10 weeks old, later in the afternoon. It was worth the wait. Shrugging off the pelting showers, Tim and Jessica put Zoey in the bowl of the Cup and had her photo taken with Smith-Pelly.

"We'll never forget this day," Carlson said.

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