Through many seasons as a National Hockey League goaltender, Jeff Reese performed admirably, but was never part of a championship squad. As an associate coach, Jeff finally learned the elation of winning the Stanley Cup as part of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, and although he wasn't backstopping the team himself, his work with the outstanding Nikolai Khabibulin was an integral reason for the Lightning's champagne celebration.
On his day with hockey's Holy Grail, Jeff Reese decided to take the Stanley Cup to his home in London, Ontario. The trophy arrived on Tuesday, July 6 at 9PM, met by Jeff, his wife Elaine and sister-in-law Tracy who sat, ready for a night of celebration, in a waiting limousine. As the trophy was carried into Joe Kool's, one of the city's best watering holes, all eyes followed Jeff's every step, staring in disbelief as the icon was marched into the club. The bowl was filled with beer, and for several hours, every patron in the club (and many more who were summoned to come quickly by those lucky enough to already be in Joe Kool's), sipped from the same brim from which Richards, St. Louis, Lecavalier plus in the past, Gretzky, Lemieux. Orr, Richard, Howe and a plethora of others had taken their first swallows of celebratory liquid.
As the Stanley Cup made its way along Richmond Street in the arms of Jeff Reese, patrons craned their necks (some almost to the point of whiplash!) as they spotted the incredible trophy. A spontaneous standing ovation took place from the patios that line the popular party street. When Reese and his party reach Barney's, the Cup was placed elegantly in the midst of a table and fans edged over, in disbelief that they had randomly discovered the actual Stanley Cup in their backyard. By 2AM, a weary Reese packed the trophy away and spirited it away to his home for the night.
The next morning, Wednesday at 7:30, Jeff, Elaine and their son Tanner climbed into the back of the limousine for the ride to Brantford, Jeff's birthplace. The vehicle pulled up in front of the Wayne Gretzky Sports Complex. Jeff carried the Cup in, and pointed out a photo of himself as a boy, replete in goalie equipment, hanging there on the wall. For the next two hours, residents lined up to get autographs and photographs of Jeff Reese and the Stanley Cup. In spite of the fact Brantford is the hometown of one of the greatest hockey players of all time, a throng of fans lined up dutifully to see the Stanley Cup and its recipient that day another reason why Brantford is so proud of its hockey heritage.
The Reeses stopped into Wendy's for a bite to eat, although surprisingly, no Frostee found its way into the gleaming Cup. Then, it was back to London and the West Haven Golf Course. It was all about fun on that Wednesday, and the duffers barely kept score. At one point, Jeff suggested a contest. "Closest drive to the Cup on this par three wins, okay," offered Jeff, and the golfers all agreed that it would be fun to tempt their competitive drive (so to speak). The Stanley Cup was placed near the hole. Each player placed his ball on the tee and delivered what he felt was the winning drive. In fact, Reese's brother-in-law Marshall came surprisingly close and not only won the contest but ended up birdying the hole.
Although they were having a great time with the Stanley Cup on the incredible fairway, their best laid plans were thwarted when the rain started to drench the players and the course. They were on the eighteenth hole at the time and after ducking for cover in the clubhouse, got distracted and never finished the hole.
Jeff and Elaine had reserved Jimmy's Corner for a private party, and family and friends joined the champion for some great Greek cuisine. Opa! Younger kids got the opportunity to drink soda pop out of the Stanley Cup, then the much bigger kids got the chance to do the same with beer. It was a fabulous party to celebrate an incredible accomplishment.
On Wednesday, the Stanley Cup visits the Big Nickel in Sudbury, and a compelling story of a local boy who achieved an incomparable dream.
Kevin Shea is the Manager of Special Projects and Publishing at the Hockey Hall of Fame