Former Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad brought the Stanley Cup back to his native Pittsburgh on Wednesday, when he shared the trophy with approximately 200 members of the United States Air Force Reserve stationed at the 911th Airlift Wing in nearby Moon Township, Pa.
An avid reader of military books, Saad and his family received a tour of the installation and the C-130 Hercules aircraft. He also posed for pictures with members of the unit, whose mission is to organize, recruit and train Air Force personnel.
"This is something I'm into and giving back to the true heroes," Saad said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I'm a big fan of them. It's just been a great day."
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Saad had NHL career-highs of 23 goals and 52 points in 82 games last season. He also had eight goals and 11 points in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help the Blackhawks win the Cup.
Saad also won the Cup with Chicago as a rookie in 2013.
"I think the first time around, it's really a whirlwind with a lot going on," Saad said. "The second time around, it's something you can plan out better and know what you're getting, and know the experience and be more relaxed. This time around, it's something I'm going to enjoy more."
Saad was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a seven-player deal on June 30.
"It's been a roller coaster of emotions," Saad said. "Obviously, with winning, you're on a high. Then, getting traded from the only team I've been on, that's something new, a new experience for me. I'm going to an exciting team in Columbus. So I'm looking forward to that. And obviously, my day with the Cup is another notch in the belt."
Col. Jeff Van Dootingh, commander of the base, told WPXI-TV that the Saad family reached out to the 911th Airlift Wing with the idea to bring the Cup to the base.
"I can say it probably took me point-two seconds to make that decision and say I'd love to have you come out with the Cup." Col. Van Dootingh said. "We feel very honored here at the 911th Airlift Wing that he chose to bring the Cup out on his one and only day and share it with us. It's kind of a way to say thanks to the airmen here for serving their country.
"When you talk with him you learn very quick he's a super individual, not just a star athlete. He's the type of guy that if you met him out somewhere you would sit down, have a beer and a nice chat, and feel like you knew him all your life."