Sports story of the year: Stanley Cup visits St. Albert
Ryan Stanton shares Lord Stanley's Mug with his hometown is the sports story of the year in St. Albert
Wednesday, Jan 01, 2014 06:00 am
The day the Stanley Cup came to St. Albert was the 2013 sports story of the year.
And we can thank the classy Ryan Stanton, a home-grown St. Albert product loyal to his roots, for bringing Lord Stanley’s Mug to Meadowview Diamonds on a memorable Aug. 28 night.
“It’s definitely pretty special to share it with my family and friends and the awesome community of St. Albert,” an overjoyed Stanton said with a smile as large as the cup itself while heading off to a private function with the guest of honour. “It’s a fun night. I was expecting a pretty good turnout, but this blew me away. It’s awesome.”
The cup arrived in St. Albert in the afternoon after Bryan Bickell of the Chicago Blackhawks took it fishing in the Orono, Ont. area during his turn with the Holy Grail of Hockey.
Ironically, it was the same day defenceman Drew Doughty, an Olympic gold medallist and Stanley Cup champion with the 2012 Los Angeles Kings, was in St. Albert through McDonald's Canada atoMc hockey program for a meal at McDonald’s and a game of ball hockey with the atom St. Albert Black Hawks.
Doughty was the centre of attention at the atoMc event, but the highlight of the night was Stanton’s gift to his hometown and the celebration was worthy of a Stanley Cup parade through the streets of St. Albert. Hundreds of hockey fans – young and old – showed up to admire, touch and snap selfies of the iconic trophy displayed on top of a covered picnic table in the facility’s beer gardens.
Full disclosure: I got my picture taken with the cup and it hangs in a prominent place in the Gazette sports bunker.
“It’s obviously how huge hockey is here and how much it means so it’s definitely exciting to see everyone come out to see it tonight. I’m just happy to bring it out,” Stanton said while trying to slip away with the cup following countless photo ops and handshakes with thankful fans as darkness descended on the festivities.
The majority of the cup worshippers were decked out in Blackhawks’ colours and popping buttons over Stanton’s act of kindness.
Akram Chehayeb of Edmonton brought his son and wife to St. Albert after reading about it on Twitter earlier in the day.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s nice to come out and see everyone with the cup,” said Chehayeb, an Edmonton Oilers’ fan clad in a green Blackhawks’ jersey. “That guy (Stanton) must be proud and his parents must be proud. I’m sure St. Albert is proud of him too.”
Bryan Lambing of Spruce Grove jumped at the opportunity to get a picture of his daughter, Elizabeth, who turned three months old that day, in the bowl of the cup.
“It’s incredible. Being a Chicago Blackhawks’ fan in Edmonton, it’s a very unique experience to be able to actually touch the cup and put my daughter in it. It couldn’t have been better timing,” said Lambing, who was also sporting a Blackhawks’ jersey.
Lambing saluted Stanton for his accomplishment.
“He should be very proud. He definitely earned it. He played his part. Good for him,” he said.
Stanton, 24, was a member of the Black Aces during the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run after making his NHL debut April 27 against the St. Louis Blues in the team’s last regular season game. He didn’t play in the playoffs but participated in the post-game festivities, including hoisting the cup on the ice in his No. 55 jersey on June 24, when the Blackhawks scored two goals in the last 76 seconds to defeat the Boston Bruins 3-2 in game six in the NHL final at TD Garden.
In the summer Stanton signed a new two-year contract with the Blackhawks after spending the last three seasons with the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s farm team in the American Hockey League. The undrafted Western Hockey League graduate of the Moose Jaw Warriors recorded nine goals and 60 points in 224 games with the IceHogs and was recognized as the team’s most improved player in 2011 and their top defenceman in 2012 and last season.
The St. Albert Catholic High School alumnus now patrols the blueline for the Vancouver Canucks after he was picked up on waivers from Chicago before the start of the regular season. He scored his first NHL goal Oct. 17 against Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres and had 10 assists in 36 games.
But it was Stanton’s devotion to family and friends and the community he grew up in that overshadowed his on-ice achievements on the day the Stanley Cup visited St. Albert. It was really cool to see the former bantam AAA Sabre and midget AAA Raider show off the cup at the men’s slowpitch league game at Meadowview between his team, the Brew Jays, and the Thirsty Beavers. After the win the Brew Jays posed with the cup at home plate, then the former catcher in the St. Albert Cardinals’ rep baseball program invited the Thirsty Beavers and the umpire to join the team for more pictures.
“We were kidding around that we wanted to play for the cup tonight,” said Shane Lehman of the Thirsty Beavers. “It was a thrill to have it here. We all grew up watching it on TV and it’s nice to actually see it in person, not to mention having a guy that I grew up playing hockey with my entire life bring it down here for all the people to see.”