INNISFAIL – The Stanley Cup is considered the most prestigious sports trophy in the world and awestruck citizens eagerly lined 50th Street on Monday morning as the trophy was paraded through downtown before heading to the Innisfail Twin Arena for a full public viewing.
The cup arrived to the arena at about 9:45 a.m. on Aug. 8.
At 10:10 a.m. just 10 minutes after doors opened for the public, there were hundreds and hundreds of eager hockey fans waiting in line to go inside to take a look at the hallowed sports trophy.
Following several celebrity photos, Parks Lattery, an eight-year-old Innisfail U9 hockey player, was chosen to have his photo taken beside the most revered sports trophy in the world.
“I've never really seen a Stanley Cup in person,” said the shy youngster.
Former Innisfail mayor Brian Spiller, who is now president of the Innisfail Eagles senior men's hockey team, said he has also never seen the trophy in person.
“No, never. Well, actually I did when I was a season ticket holder to the Edmonton Oilers in the '80s. I seen it presented on the ice and I was way up in the stands,” said Spiller, who attended the Stanley Cup visit to town with many team players and officials. “But this is different. This is awesome.”
The weather for the Stanley Cup’s arrival in Innisfail could not have been more perfect.
When the cup arrived outside the Henday Mall before a planned procession down Main Street it instantly glowed as it was removed from its case; triggering many oohs and aahs from dozens of awestruck citizens, including Robert Hamill, a former Sylvan Lake citizen who came to honour his late father.
“He never got to see the cup,” said Hamill, who proudly donned an old Sylvan Lake hockey jersey.
The Stanley Cup is a mixture of silver and nickel alloy and is nearly three feet tall and weighs 34.5 pounds.
Named after Lord Stanley of Preston, the governor general of Canada, the Stanley Cup was commissioned in 1892 as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. First awarded the following year to the Montreal Hockey Club, professional teams first became eligible to challenge for the Stanley Cup in 1906.
In 1926, the Stanley Cup officially became the trophy for the National Hockey League to mark professional hockey supremacy.
The Montreal Canadiens have won it a record 24 times, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs with 13. The Detroit Red Wings have won it 11 times, the most of any United States-based NHL team.
The current holders of the cup are the Colorado Avalanche.
For many years it has been a tradition for players of the reigning Stanley Cup champions to have a personal day with the cup at the place of their choosing, with many opting to take it to their home town.
And that was what former Innisfail resident Ray Bennett, an assistant coach with the Avalanche, did this year with the Stanley Cup.
Bennett grew up in Innisfail playing youth sports - including all his minor hockey. He also played several seasons with the Innisfail Eagles senior men's hockey team.
“This is so special. I've had a tough time thinking about how I do feel. I am proud and happy; any sort of positive emotion that you can think of that's what I am. And I still am processing all of it. But I'm so happy to be here,” said Bennett, noting his wife Karla was with him for his Stanley Cup return to Innisfail.
“It’s so special to reconnect with the community I grew up in. I'm ecstatic happy,” he said, noting it was the first time he has returned to Innisfail since before the COVID-19 pandemic. “For 20 years we have done a golf tournament, an outing with guys I grew up with in high school and we came back every summer to do it. I try to come back every year.”
And it was also special and emotional for his older brother Dale who came from Calgary to attend the Innisfail celebration for the arrival of the Stanley Cup.
“This town means a lot to us. This is where we grew up,” said Dale. “We played hockey here. Our dad wore out cars every winter driving us all over. This is big day.”
As the hundreds remained in line to view the Stanley Cup, outside the arena was Town of Innisfail Mayor Jean Barclay helping the Rotary Club of Innisfail with the barbecue to feed hundreds of hockey-mad attendees.
“We arrived here around 8:45 a.m. with Rotary and our food and there were already people lined up at that time,” said Barclay. “I went back to get more and when I returned it was 9:15 a.m. and the lineup was much longer.
“So, you knew it was going to be just a wonderful day when you saw so many people here so early,” she added. “This is maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity for people to see the Stanley Cup and have their photo taken with it.
“It’s a fantastic day for Innisfail.”