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Summer with Stanley

Wilson brings Stanley Cup back home to Toronto

Capitals forward spends day with family, has banner unveiled at youth ice rink

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Tom Wilson began to fight back tears the moment he saw his image depicted on a huge banner at North Toronto Memorial Arena on Sunday.

Like Eric Lindros, who was honored with a banner upon his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016, the Washington Capitals forward is an alumnus of the North Toronto Hockey Association. 

Now, right beside Lindros, there is a banner paying tribute to Wilson, depicting him hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head with the accompanying words: "Tom Wilson 2018: Brought It Home."


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Wilson did exactly that during his day with the Cup. He brought it to the arena that served as his second home for so many years.

"It truly was that," Wilson said. "To bring it here was a no-brainer. When it comes to getting your moment with the Cup, this was always the choice. I spent so much time here growing up. It's where my hockey dream started.

"To see my image up there beside that of Eric Lindros, it's really special."

North Toronto Memorial Arena will always hold a special place for Wilson and his family. His father, Keven, coached rep teams here. His mother, Neville, coached house league here. His brothers, Peter and James, still play pick-up games here.

"Great kid, great family," said Eric Anweiler, the longtime arena manager. "He was one of those kids who used to play hockey in the hallways here, scratching up things and everything. I would always have to tell them to stop, pick up the sticks and the balls they were using, and go back to the dressing room.

"To this day, Tom loves to tell that story."

Wilson, 24, admits he would fantasize about one day winning the Cup during those epic mini-stick games. That dream became a reality when the Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final to win the best-of-7 series June 7.

After the win, Wilson, a Toronto native, vowed that he would bring the Cup back to his hometown and backed up that promise, much to the excitement of hundreds of kids who were on hand for the festivities.

Jake Avery, Wilson's grandfather who wears a Capitals No. 43 jersey with the name 'GRAMPIE" on the back, was on the ice for the Capitals celebration at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas two months ago.

Like his grandson, Jake was overcome with emotion on Sunday.

"When I got to the rink and saw all the kids lined up to get inside and see the Cup, it got to me," Jake said. "It reminded me what he's done. I remember when [Tom] was one of those kids."

The majority of the kids on hand play in the North Toronto Hockey Association and had the chance to get Wilson's autograph, pose with the Cup, and the opportunity to participate in a question and answer session with him.

The assembled crowd laughed when one kid asked Wilson why he liked fighting so much. "I never dropped the gloves while I was with North Toronto," he replied. "And neither should you."

Charles Ujimoto, 7, wanted to know how many penalty minutes Wilson has in his NHL career. Wilson said 600-something. The actual number is 806.

Toronto mayor John Tory, 64, had the dream of winning the Cup while he was a boy playing for North Toronto. It never happened.

"Sure, I'm jealous of Tom that he got to do it," Tory chuckled.

Tory, wearing a North Toronto jersey, attended the festivities to pay tribute to Wilson's accomplishment.

"Sure, I'd rather the Cup was here because the [Toronto Maple] Leafs had won it but that's coming in the near future," Tory said. "I just love that a local boy brought it back home. We embrace Toronto kids who are successful.

"He's such a fine young man. That he is raising money for the Hospital for Sick Kids from this event speaks to the quality person he is."

Aside from Wilson and the Cup, the star of the show was Brock Chessell, a 12-year-old cancer survivor who was treated at the aforementioned Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Sixteen months after being diagnosed with Stage IV liver cancer, Chessell is coming off a successful transplant and is back playing AAA hockey.

"When I was in the hospital getting treatment, they have a TV and I would stay up at night awake and watch the Capitals games," Chessell told the crowd. "Every time they would score a goal, I'd get excited. It was cool."

"How inspirational is that?" Wilson said.

Before the event, Wilson started his day with the Cup at his family home in Toronto, eating Lucky Charms cereal out of the trophy. 

The Cup's next stop was at St. Mike's Arena, where Tom went to the workout room and bench pressed the 35.25-inch, 34.5-pound trophy before heading to North Toronto Memorial Arena.

Wilson capped off the day by going down to the Toronto waterfront, where he hoisted the Cup over his head with the city's skyline, including the CN Tower, in the background.

It has been a whirlwind period for Wilson since winning the Cup. His "Grampie" turned 90. His brother Peter got married. And he signed a six-year, $31 million contract on July 27 after he had 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 21 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help Washington win its first championship in its 43-season history.

"This has been the capper," Wilson said. "It's so special.

"I'll never forget it." 

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