Stan Riley is your normal 18-year old college freshman. He is focused on his engineering classes at Carleton University in Ottawa, and in his spare time plays in men's pickup hockey games and even does some hockey officiating too. When Stan is home, he "sleeps all day and stays up all night," said his mom, Cheryl.
But the story of how Stanley C Gordon Jeff Riley -- that's his full name -- came to be is anything but typical. It's one of heartbreak, determination and fate, and revolves around one kiss given to the most famous Stanley of them all: the Stanley Cup.
"I thank God every day for Stanley," Cheryl said last week from her home in Haliburton, Ontario, talking about her son, and maybe just a little about the most famous trophy in sports. Cheryl speaks with such enthusiasm and detail, you would think the improbable conception of her son occurred last week, not 20 years ago.
The memories will come rushing back Friday, when Mike Ricci and members of the 1996 Colorado Avalanche -- winners of the Cup at the center of the story -- play in the 2016 NHL Coors Light Stadium Series Alumni Game against former Detroit Red Wings players.
It was Ricci, after all, who brought the Cup to Haliburton on Aug. 1, 1996, a day that changed the Rileys' lives forever.
The story actually begins before Cheryl Riley was even born. Her mom, pregnant with Cheryl, took an anti-miscarriage drug and years later, Cheryl found out its effects would make it practically impossible for her to have children of her own. Cheryl and her husband, Ken, would try anyway for close to 17 years, taking fertility tests, but "nothing was working," Ken said. "We had probably given up."
But it all changed in the summer of 1996. In June, the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in their inaugural season in Denver. Ricci, a member of the team, had the Cup for the weekend and planned a party at his cottage, being built across the lake from the Rileys' home. That's when fate intervened.
"I was building my cottage and we didn't have the interior done, and the Stanley Cup was coming," Ricci said. "So I was like, 'Man, we really need a deck' for this party."
Ricci's contractor rounded up some local workers to build a quick deck, and one of them was Ken Riley. Ricci, grateful for the job they had done, invited the workers and their families to the picnic.
"The guy who takes care of the Cup, he brought it around from the back of the cottage," Ken said. "They put it on the tailgate of a pickup truck and spent a lot of time having people getting their picture taking with it.
"And then my wife kissed the Cup … and the rest is history."
After leaving the party, the Rileys spent some time with friends on the lake, then went home for some private time. A few weeks later, Cheryl started feeling strange.
"It was Aug. 1," said Cheryl, in her early 40s in the summer of 1996. "Mike [Ricci] brought the Cup up here and on Labor Day weekend we were playing some volleyball on the beach, and I realized that my fingers and ankles were getting sore. Then I discovered that I didn't like the taste of some of the foods I had been eating, and I realized these were things women complain about it when they are pregnant."
Amazingly, improbably and incredibly, she was. And after getting over the shock of the news, Cheryl was able to pinpoint the night her child, the one she thought would never be able to have, was conceived.
"We knew it was that night, we knew it was the day I kissed the Stanley Cup," Cheryl said.
When they told their friends the story, some suggested calling the baby Stanley if it were a boy, but in Ken's family, all the names started with the letter K.
"So it was going to Kirk if it was a boy and Kelly if it was a girl," Cheryl said. "But when the doctor handed the baby boy to Ken, he just said, 'All right, Stan my man.'"
The story made its way to their hometown newspaper, and then Mike Ulmer, a writer for the Toronto Sun, happened to spot a clipping of the local story on a bulletin board in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Ulmer wrote a story for the Sun that was syndicated throughout Canada. He also included the Rileys' incredible story in a book called "If the Cup Could Talk."
These days, Stanley C. doesn't talk much about his name, but if a new friend asks, he said he definitely doesn't get tired of it. He said he still feels a connection to the Cup and roots for the San Jose Sharks these days, because Ricci works for the club as development coach.
He also knew Ricci during his younger years, when the Rileys would make frequent visits to Ricci's lake house, and bring with them any item they could collect that featured Ricci's picture or logos of the Avalanche and Sharks. Ricci would sign them all.
"He would always take his time to talk to Stan," Cheryl said of Ricci, who was shocked to find Stanley will turn 19 on May 6 of this year. "He was always very gracious. He's real."
One day Cheryl brought Ricci two copies of Ulmer's book, one for Ricci and one for him to sign for little Stanley.
Ricci, with his inscription in the book, summed up the entire story with five little words. "To Stan, the real prize."