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Stanley Cup 125th Anniversary

Ceremony marks start for Stanley Cup monument

Groundbreaking in Ottawa highlights four days of tributes to hockey's ultimate prize

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

OTTAWA -- With flags snapping in a windy downtown corridor, a hundred or more hardy souls bundled up against the cold, the Stanley Cup was celebrated Saturday morning very near the place where it was conceived 125 years ago to the day.

Governor general David Johnston joined Hockey Hall of Famers Dave Keon and Frank Mahovlich at the corner of Sparks and Elgin streets for a so-called groundbreaking ceremony, the first physical step in erecting a monument to the Stanley Cup.

It marked another event, and by far the coldest, in four-plus days of tributes to the historic trophy, which has been moving around Ottawa on the 125th anniversary of its birth in Canada's national capital.

In fact, each of the Stanley Cup trophies stood proudly at the east end of the city's major pedestrian mall on this occasion: the original 1892 bowl commissioned by Lord Stanley of Preston, Canada's sixth governor general, and the taller version of the Cup, the one richly coveted by players and familiar to fans as hockey's most prestigious prize.

There was no actual ground broken at this groundbreaking; instead, Keon and Mahovlich took a ceremonial faceoff, two pucks dropped between their sticks for clicking cameras. The legends were flanked by the two Cups, and by eight pink-eared youngsters from Ottawa-area minor hockey programs, two wearing Ottawa Senators jerseys, the others in the colors of the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.

The monument is expected to be unveiled around the time of the 2017 Scotiabank NHL 100 Classic, the outdoor game between the Senators and Canadiens at Lansdowne Park on Dec. 16.

The winning design is that of Covit/Ngyun/NORR, a Montreal-based team composed of an artist, landscape architect and senior design architect. Their chalice, standing nearly 10 feet in height and made of silver aluminum bands through which people can walk, was chosen at the end of a spirited competition four months ago.

Many partners have been involved in bringing the project to fruition, including the governor general, the government of Canada, the Ottawa Senators and the city of Ottawa. The NHL, represented Saturday by Steve Mayer, executive vice president and executive producer, programming and creative development, as well as the Hockey Hall of Fame, National Capital Commission and a selection jury have also played important roles.

The idea of creating a monument to honor and celebrate the Stanley Cup has been in the works since 2009, when a volunteer group led by hockey historian Paul Kitchen established a charitable organization called Lord Stanley Memorial Monument Inc.

Kitchen died in 2015, but at the ceremony on Saturday, the group's president said the driving force behind the monument was looking on with great pride.

"Paul's dream was the monument we start building today," George Hunter said.

In his remarks, delivered with cheeks rosy in the cold, Johnston spoke glowingly of what will soon be built at this busy intersection at the foot of the historic Canada Post building and across the street from the country's National War Memorial.

"My predecessor, Lord Stanley, would be so pleased to see us here, at the corner of Sparks and Elgin streets," he said. "The heart of Canada's capital is a fitting place for this monument."

The Stanley Cup was conceived on March 18, 1892, virtually across the street from where the monument will stand. A letter written by Lord Stanley speaking of its creation was read that night at a dinner at what was the Russell House Hotel.

"It reflects the place of the Stanley Cup in the hearts of millions of Canadians," said Johnston, Canada's 28th governor general. "The Stanley Cup is a symbol of excellence, of teamwork, of grit -- Frank [Mahovlich] and Davey [Keon] -- grace and hard work. … This monument honors the legacy and will further cement the Stanley Cup's place in the life of our country."

The Stanley Cup has been treated like royalty in Ottawa this week. The tall trophy was celebrated at an event Wednesday at Canada's Museum of History across the river in Gatineau, Quebec. After that, the bowl and trophy moved from Rideau Hall, the governor general's residence, to a by-invitation breakfast, to a news conference announcing December's outdoor game, a tribute concert/show at Canadian Tire Centre Friday night, and various fan events. The original bowl was headed back to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Saturday afternoon for a well-deserved rest, the tall trophy will follow Sunday.

Video: Stanley Cup Monument Groundbreaking

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has been a little like holiday-season Santa Claus, seemingly several places at once during the festivities.

Watson began his comments by looking at Catherine McKenna, Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and good-naturedly blaming her for the unseasonably cold morning.

"We wanted the triple crown for Ottawa (in 2017)," the mayor continued. "We wanted to host the Juno Awards (Canada's annual music awards show), which we're doing next month, the Grey Cup (the Canadian Football League championship, to be staged at Lansdowne Park in November), and an outdoor NHL classic."

Watson listed a long list of anniversaries, proud that his city is deeply involved in all of them. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Senators, the 50th of major-junior hockey's Ottawa 67s, the centennial of the NHL, the 12thh birthday of the Stanley Cup, and the 150th anniversary this July 1 of Canadian confederation.

Hunter addressed his remarks primarily to the eight children shivering in front of him.

"This ceremony is all about dreams," he said. "The first was that of Lord Stanley. His children, boys and girls, loved to play hockey just like you. You could say that Lord Stanley probably was Canada's first hockey dad. Through the joy of his children, Lord Stanley could envisage -- and that's a big word for dream -- a trophy which would be awarded to the Dominion champion of Canada, and that happened.

"The second dream, which I know each of you have had on the ice, the driveway or in the street, is to score the winning goal in overtime of the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final. That dream is what makes the Stanley Cup so important to us as a nation. As Mr. Mahovlich and Mr. Keon personified, hockey brings out the skill, the discipline, energy, leadership and fortitude that defines us all as Canadians.

"Learn from these extraordinary men," Hunter said to the young players, and by extension to the adults around them, "and your dreams will come true in ways that you cannot even imagine."

Nine months from now, and for years beyond that, Lord Stanley's dream, and the glorious reality that it became 125 years ago, will again be celebrated at this corner. Canadians don't need a work of art to know the place the Stanley Cup occupies in their hearts, but this monument should be a lovely thing to visit.

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