In recent years, we've had the opportunity to share in the joy experienced by beloved veterans Raymond Bourque, Dave Andreychuk, Glen Wesley and Wesley's Carolina Hurricanes teammates Doug Weight, Ray Whitney and Bret Hedican.
Steve Larmer had been the face of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1980s and was in his 15th NHL season when he won with the New York Rangers in 1994.
Larmer's former teammate, Denis Savard, was in his 13th season when he won with the Montreal Canadiens. Don McKenney had 12 seasons with the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, a Lady Byng Trophy and two prior trips to the Final before he won with the 1964 Toronto Maple Leafs.
Then there's that long list of great players who never took a lap with Stanley, stars like Bill Gadsby, Norm Ullman, Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield, Rod Gilbert, Gilbert Perreault, Mike Gartner, Cam Neely, Pat LaFontaine, Harry Howell and Borje Salming.
What NHL fan can forget Bourque taking the Stanley Cup from Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic in 2001 and thrusting it high over his head? Bourque played 21 seasons with the Boston Bruins and was in his second year with the Avalanche when he finally won.
”The reason I left Boston and went to Colorado was to win the Stanley Cup,” Bourque told NHL.com. “To have that work, it was just a really special moment.”
So special that Bourque had trouble breathing while on the ice in the final minute.
"I couldn't breathe for the last 30 seconds and it wasn't because I was tired," Bourque said. "I was just -- it was just too much and I was trying to hold off the tears, the emotions. I was on the ice for a faceoff and I had to stay focused. I only relaxed when there were about seven or 10 seconds left. Lifting the Cup -- what a feeling. I just can't describe it."
Andreychuk waited longer than Bourque before winning in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, in fact longer than any player in NHL history. Andreychuk had played 1,597 regular-season games and 161 Stanley Cup Playoff games over 22 seasons.
"This is what we play for. This is the pinnacle," Andreychuk said after the Lightning won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history by edging the Calgary Flames, 2-1, in Game 7 on June 7, 2004. "You dream about this day for a long time. It took me a while to get there. It's hard to put into words -- the years you get knocked out of the playoffs, the years you didn't make the playoffs, all the players you've played with."
Andreychuk's success left Wesley as the longest-serving player without a Stanley Cup. Wesley had played in 1,311 regular-season and 169 playoff games. Teammate and Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour, who had played in 1,187 regular-season games and another 141 playoff games, told Wesley, an alternate captain, that he would first hand the Cup to him.
"Oh, boy," Wesley said. "Roddy told me he was giving it to me next. It's an incredible feeling to wait 18 years to be able to experience it. It was never, never about me. I truly believe that. It was about every guy in the locker room and it wasn't about one individual."
Across the Hurricanes' dressing room from Wesley, Whitney lifted the Cup to take a sip of champagne. Someone shouted the question; 'How does it taste?'
"It's the sweetest thing ever," Whitney replied.
There was little doubt when Jeremy Roenick broke into the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks in February 1989 that he would someday, perhaps soon, lead his team to the Stanley Cup.
|Roenick is first among his San Jose teammates in game-winning goals. |
Roenick, 38, had been a standout New England Prep School player for two seasons and then had 34 goals and 36 assists in 28 games for the Hull Olympiques before being called up to Chicago, where he had nine goals and nine assists in 20 games. He had a goal and three assists in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Of course, there were also the two World Junior Championships he played in (1988, 1989). There, Roenick dusted international competition with 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points in 14 games.
Roenick had 26 goals and 40 assists for 66 points in 78 games in his rookie season of 1989-90 and then had 11 goals and seven assists in 20 playoff games. He finished third in Calder Trophy voting behind Sergei Makarov and Mike Modano. Roenick finished second in team scoring as the Blackhawks won the Presidents' Trophy, but were upset in the first round by the eventual Stanley Cup Finalists, the Minnesota North Stars.
The aftertaste was bitter, and Roenick responded with 53 goals and 50 assists and a plus-23 in 1991-92. Roenick had three goals and 13 assists in the playoffs as the Blackhawks returned to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1973.
That Blackhawks team made one of the most amazing runs to the Final. After losing Games 2 and 3 to the St. Louis Blues, Chicago took the last three games, swept the Detroit Red Wings who had finished first in their division and swept the Edmonton Oilers, arriving at the Final with an 11-2 record. But after leading in Game 1, Chicago was swept by the repeat champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
It's been 16 years since that Stanley Cup Final, and Roenick hasn't returned to the Big Dance. His 1995-96 Blackhawks lost in the second round to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.
Perhaps his best chance came in 2004 when he had four goals and nine assists in 18 games when the Philadelphia Flyers lost the Eastern Conference championship in seven games to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
"Somebody told me back in 1992 to take advantage, you might not get this opportunity again," Roenick said. "I make sure to tell all the young guys the same thing.
"I told Mike Comrie last year, at the beginning of the Finals; 'Mike, take advantage big time of your opportunity. You might not get this opportunity again so soak it up, live it, love it, do what you can to make sure you do the best you possibly can because you might not get it again.' He appreciated that."
The work stoppage canceled the following season, and then Roenick was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in the summer of 2005. His offensive production fell off there and in Phoenix last season. Roenick was thinking about hanging them up when he got a job offer from an old Blackhawks' teammate, Doug Wilson, now the general manager of the San Jose Sharks.
Roenick responded with enthusiasm and has been an important contributor, scoring 11 goals and adding 13 assists in 61 games. He has been a timely scorer, getting eight game-winners, including the deciding score Friday against St. Louis. Those eight game-winners lead the Sharks and are tied for third in the NHL.
I feel like I have a second life, a second opportunity, on a team that is completely first class and treats me with respect. We're winning hockey games and the coach uses me in every situation. How can you not be in total awe and have complete satisfaction about this when you have been playing as long as I have? - Jeremy Roenick
"I'm a a 20-year veteran who is loving being on a winning hockey team," Roenick said. "I feel like I have a second life, a second opportunity, on a team that is completely first class and treats me with respect. We're winning hockey games and the coach uses me in every situation. How can you not be in total awe and have complete satisfaction about this when you have been playing as long as I have?"
Roenick isn't alone in thinking the Sharks will be one of the strongest contenders for the 2008 Stanley Cup. He has much better insight into the tone of the team. He likes what he sees.
"The addition of Brian Campbell has really given us a lot of confidence," Roenick said. "We have good youth and the young players are really strong and unbelievably exciting. Our veterans are smart and schooled.
"Our goaltending is tremendous with Evgeni Nabokov playing as much as he has and the confidence he has given us. We're really concentrating on playing a good defensive team game and creating a lot of offense for ourselves."
Roenick needs look no further than a year ago to the comments of Teemu Selanne, who played 15 NHL seasons before capturing the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks.
"Waiting a long time for something like this makes it even more special," Selanne said. "I'm so proud of my teammates. We've been like brothers and we have had one dream together and that's why it's so special."