SAN JOSE -- Trevor Daley never gave up on getting on the ice during the Stanley Cup Final.
The 32-year-old defenseman technically didn't make it back until after the Cup Final was over, but his persistence paid off with a moment that will become a lifetime memory.
After the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched the fourth championship in their history with a 3-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 at SAP Center on Sunday, captain Sidney Crosby decided to hand the Stanley Cup to Daley first.
"It doesn't get much better than that," Daley said. "It's unbelievable."
Daley has been sidelined since fracturing his left ankle in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, eliminating his chance to play in the Cup Final for the first time in his 12-year career. On the day before the Cup Final began, Daley said he was still hoping to play but knew it was impossible, limiting him to a cheerleading role.
"I tried to take the situation the best I could," Daley said. "I was around. I got to see the boys every day. It was awesome. It was an unreal experience."
After the Penguins won Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead, Daley began thinking about getting his skates on so he could take part in the on-ice celebration if they were able to get the fourth win.
"I talked to the doctor a couple days ago and asked him if I could make this possible and he was like, 'We'll do whatever we can to get you out there,'" Daley said.
The Penguins lost 4-2 in Game 5 on Thursday, but Daley's ankle was ready to go when they finished off the Sharks in Game 6.
"I got a ton of tape wrapped around it," Daley said. "It's not moving anywhere."
The added surprise for Daley came when Crosby informed him on the ice that after he got the Stanley Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, he'd be handing it off to him first.
"He told me when I came out to celebrate," Daley said. "He was like, 'You got this. You got this first.' It was pretty special."
Crosby later explained that he wanted Daley to have that honor because his mother has been ill and one of her wishes was to see him raise the Stanley Cup.
"Daley had played for such a long time [and he] hadn't really even had a chance," Crosby said. "He had been through some different playoffs, but getting hurt at the time he did, knowing how important it was, he had told me that. He went and had seen his mom in between series. She wasn't doing well. She wanted to see him with the Cup. That was important to her. I think that kind of stuck with me after he told me that."
Still, when Crosby told Daley his plan, Daley's initial response was to say, "No."
"But, [Crosby] said, 'You got it first,'" Daley said.
That Crosby, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, remembered Daley in this moment was much appreciated.
"He's a great hockey player, but he's an even better person," Daley said. "What much more can you say about that guy? He's just as good of a person as he is a hockey player, probably even better. He's a special guy."
Not to be forgotten, Daley was a key in-season acquisition for the Penguins in a Dec. 14 trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. Things hadn't worked out for Daley with the Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup last season, after they acquired him from the Dallas Stars last offseason, but his puck-moving skill and skating helped solidify the Penguins defense.
"Coming over here I was just looking for an opportunity to play," Daley said. "They gave me an opportunity and I just tried to run with it."