Puck nuts

Hockey fans from across P.E.I., Mar­itimes, and even Toronto take in cel­e­bra­tions

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - THE GUARDIAN

Even the chance to get up­close and per­sonal with the Stan­ley Cup isn’t enough to war­rant a day off for as­pir­ing hockey stars.

Con­nor Neill, 9, and Michael O’Brien, 8, fol­lowed that rule to a tee in Mu­u­ray Har­bour on Tues­day dur­ing both of their first chance to see the famed tro­phy in real life.

The two play­ers at­tend­ing the Andrews Hockey Growth Pro­gram, which is where Richards also trained as a young­ster, were plan­ning on get­ting back to train­ing af­ter Tues­day’s noon pa­rade and cel­e­bra­tion.

“We’re here for hockey school and try­ing to get bet­ter,” said Neill, of Saint John, N.B. “But we’re here to see the cup too.”

Both Neill and O’Brien, of Hal­i­fax, N.S., come to P.E.I. for five weeks ev­ery sum­mer in a quest to one day hoist up the cup them­selves.

“We want to ac­tu­ally bring the Stan­ley cup back to our home­town,” said Neill.

Both play­ers also ap­proved of Richards plans with the cup, which in­cluded a pa­rade through the town with the cup show­cased on top of his fa­ther’s lob­ster boat.

“I’d bring it home and maybe go on a boat with it too,” said O’Brien.

Most

of

the

crowd

was decked out in hats and jer­seys from Richards’ nu­mer­ous NHL teams, most no­tably the Tampa Bay Light­ning, who he won the cup with in 2004, and Chicago Black­hawks.

Even Is­lan­ders who cheer for other teams drove out for the oc­ca­sion.

Strat­ford res­i­dent Jane John­ston, a Bos­ton Bru­ins fan, missed the first op­por­tu­nity to see the cup in Mur­ray Har­bour in 2004.

“I’m here just for the fun of it, I fol­low hockey all the time,” said John­ston. “I watched all of the Stan­ley Cup and fol­lowed him (Richards) right along through.”

Some spec­ta­tors came from even fur­ther.

Toronto sis­ters Emily, 14, and Jil­lian MacAu­lay, 11, said they’d be hard-pressed to get a closer en­counter the cup.

“We can’t see it in Toronto be­cause they (the Leafs) never win it,” said Jil­lian, who was hold­ing a sign with her sis­ter read­ing ‘ couldn’t see the cup in Toronto, had to come to P.E.I.’”

The two are vis­it­ing fam­ily in P.E.I. and the cel­e­bra­tion was too much to pass up.

“It’s not go­ing to be there (in Toronto) any­time soon, we fig­ured we’d see it here in­stead,” said Emily with a laugh.

For many res­i­dents of the town, the cup took a back­seat to Richards.

“Good luck in Detroit next year,” yelled one res­i­dent while Richards and the cup drove by.

“Nice as­sists,” yelled another,

“It’s not go­ing to be there (in Toronto) any­time soon, we fig­ured we’d see it here in­stead.” Toronto res­i­dent Emily MacAu­lay

ref­er­enc­ing Richards’ two plays in the fi­nal that helped clinch the cham­pi­onship.

“Thanks,” said Richards, who wasted no time in shar­ing the tro­phy with the group of kids that swarmed him when he got off the boat. “Touch it guys, if you want,” Neill and O’Brien said they were hop­ing to touch the cup, but were hes­i­tant af­ter hear­ing about the su­per­sti­tion of “if you touch it, you’ll never win it.”

“Oh, then I’m not gonna touch it,” said Neill be­fore pon­der­ing for a sec­ond. “That didn’t hap­pen to Brad Richards though.”

MITCH MACDONALD/THE GUARDIAN

Mi­nor hockey play­ers Con­nor Neill, from left, and Michael O’Brien meet NHL star Brad Richards and the Stan­ley Cup dur­ing Tues­day’s cel­e­bra­tions in Mur­ray Har­bour. While the two as­pir­ing NHL’ers were hes­i­tant when asked if they would touch the famed tro­phy, both took up Richards on his of­fer.

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