There are very few events in rural Canada that can match a local guy bringing home the Stanley Cup.
The municipalities of Waterloo Region hosted the holy grail of hockey twice in 2018 when Washington Capitals video coach Brett Leonhardt brought it to New Hamburg, followed a few days later by goaltending coach Scott Murray in St. Clements.
The Los Angeles Kings’ championships in 2012 and 2014 resulted in the trophy arriving in Ayr with Kyle Clifford and Kitchener with Tanner Pearson. There may have been others not mentioned here, however the alumni of local hockey have represented Waterloo Region well and have been there when the final game of the season concluded.
This year the centre of national attention was Huron County, where events were held in Goderich and Seaforth for St. Louis Blues captain and playoff most valuable player Ryan O’Reilly. This was no ordinary year – the Blues literally went from the league’s worst to its best in a few short months. It was exceptional work by exceptional people, lead by a player who went to school and played minor hockey in a county dominated by small towns. Kitchener and London are the big cities.
Many of Don Cherry’s favourite players are farm kids from rural Ontario. The Hunter brothers from Oil Springs and Marty McSorley from Cayuga are some of the most prominent. Dennis Wideman gets mentioned as his family has long connections with Waterloo Region agriculture. O’Reilly’s family did not farm but he grew up in Canada’s most productive agricultural area.
For the small communities across Canada that host these events, it’s an opportunity for the players to simply reach out and thank the people who supported them. It is the recollections of the players and their often humble beginnings twenty years ago in the local arena along with regular school or community activities. For one day the rest of the nation is looking at small town Canada.
Thirty years ago. Ken Dryden wrote that hockey is about people and places. Never is that more apparent than when the local hockey hero brings home the Stanley Cup.