Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 2009, 15

Kris Letang shares a moment with his mother, stepfather and the Stanley Cup. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
A tale of two Chrises (if you'll excuse the spelling) today in the Stanley Cup Journal.

We'll start with Kris Letang, who enjoyed his day with the Stanley Cup on Wednesday, August 5. Just after 8:00AM, the Cup arrived at his home in Montreal, Quebec. Family pictures were taken with Lord Stanley's silver chalice while Kris's mother had a terrific breakfast of apple and cheese crepes. Kris's Mom and stepfather drank Mimosas (champagne and orange juice) from the Stanley Cup, but Kris refused to take even a sip.

Kris showed a scrapbook that had been made covering his career to date, including the Stanley Cup run. An amusing letter included came from the desk of Jack Lambert, who won four Super Bowls in his 11-season career as middle-linebacker with football's Pittsburgh Steelers. "If you plan on making #58 famous in Pittsburgh, you've got a long way to go," wrote the member of both the 1970s and 1980s All-Decade Teams.

Ste-Julie, Quebec Mayor Suzanne Roy watches as Kris Letang signs the 'Golden Book'.
(Mike Bolt/HHOF)
To be candid, winning the Stanley Cup was a melancholy experience for Letang. He was unable to share the exhilaration with his best friend, Luc Bourdon, who died in a motorcycle accident just over a year earlier (May 29, 2008). Kris had befriended the Vancouver Canuck when they played together in junior with the Val d'Or Foreurs. Nevertheless, he dedicated the win to his friend and used his ability to raise money with the Stanley Cup to support the Luc Bourdon Foundation, which gives youngsters better access to sports.

A close friend who had played hockey with Kris since they were young boys dropped by to celebrate with Kris. Yes, Marc-Andre showed up to congratulate his long-time friend. No, not THAT Marc-Andre — the Penguins’ goaltender dropped by to celebrate with Letang later that evening.

Kris stopped by Kasual Clothing, owned and operated by friends. He spent a couple of hours at the St. Bruno location, meeting customers and staff and having his picture taken with the Stanley Cup.

Kris Letang celebrates with the Cup and young fans at a local park in Ste-Julie, QC. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
A special reception had been planned for Letang and the Stanley Cup when they arrived in Ste-Julie, an off-island suburb of Montreal. Welcomed by Mayor Suzanne Roy, Kris signed the 'Golden Book,' then answered questions posed by the media. Photos were taken with civic employees while sandwiches were served.

Kris made a passionate speech about the incredible support he received from the community. "They say that in Ste-Julie, like everywhere else in Quebec, hockey is suffering. I want the kids to take away a thought from my visit with the Stanley Cup here today -- anything is possible. I was never a star in minor hockey, but I worked hard and stayed at it and I not only made the National Hockey League but today, I bring you the Stanley Cup!"

More than 3,000 people waited for Kris's arrival at the arena. He drove with the Stanley Cup down the centre aisle on a golf cart, welcomed by a tumultuous cheer. There was a gated area where special members of the local minor hockey association met the local hero.

Kids swarm around Kris Letang who
brought the Cup to a local park in his hometown of Ste-Julie, QC. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
There were so many people in the crowd that individual photos with the Stanley Cup so Kris decided to do 'team pictures,' asking 6 to 8 people at a time to pose with the glorious trophy. Even then, the event went on to close to four hours. Donations amounting to $5,000 went to the Luc Bourdon Foundation.

Needing to relax, Kris went back to his Mom and stepfather's house for an hour before heading off to a great meal at Le Vieux Four. There, at a private party, Kris and his guests, numbering almost 150, enjoyed the Mediterranean grill, pizza, sushi and pasta. Each person got a picture taken with the Stanley Cup, including his teammate and friend, Marc-Andre Fleury.

At 11:00PM, Letang headed down to St. Laurent, and took the Stanley Cup to Buonanotte, an incredible nightclub. Hundreds of people were there, and the excitement grew to such a pitch that the local police had to escort Kris and the Cup away from the horde of fans.

The constables took Kris and the Cup into a nearby alley and were only too happy to get pictures with the Pittsburgh Penguins star and the Stanley Cup.

Kris's time was just about up when he exclaimed, "Wait! Do you realize that today is the fifth day of the eighth month of the year? That makes today 5/8. And what's my number? 58!"

Some things are just meant to be!

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Chris celebrating with family and friends in Chicago. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
Another Chris -- Chris Kunitz -- took his turn with the Stanley Cup on Sunday, August 9. Chris and his wife Maureen had two reasons to celebrate. The Stanley Cup was one, but Baby Zachary was born on April 15, 2009 -- the first day of the playoffs. That night, Pittsburgh defeated the cross-state rival Philadelphia Flyers 4-1, and the team presented Kunitz with the game-puck to put away as a cherished souvenir of that special night.

Amidst thunderstorms, the Stanley Cup arrived in Chicago to begin its day with the Kunitzes. Chris's wife is from Chicago (the couple met while attending Ferris State College in Michigan), so the first stage of the celebration took place there. A dinner for friends and family was held at Zella, a wonderful restaurant with high ceilings, exposed brick walls and a fireplace that gives it a cozy feel.

Chris and his wife Maureen along with baby Zachary sharing a moment with the Stanley Cup in Regina, SK. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
The stay in Chicago was only a few hours. A private plane then flew Chris and some friends to his hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Chris was part of the Anaheim Ducks' championship in 2007, and he brought the Stanley Cup home with him then, too. But there were things he missed the first time that he was determined to do this time. One was to get a picture of the Stanley Cup in front of a grain elevator in a wheatfield. Some pals had already scouted a location, so once the plane had set down, the Stanley Cup was driven immediately to an ideal spot. And the timing was ideal too — with sun just begin to set, nature's lighting made for a great photograph.

The Cup was then the special guest at a dinner for 100 at the Delta Regina. Friends and family dove into roast beef, potatoes, salads, fruit and pastries, and later in the evening, pizzas were brought out, too.

Before the night concluded, Kunitz briefly stopped by a local bar with the Stanley Cup.

Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco welcomes Chris Kunitz and the Cup to the Queen City. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
The next morning, bright and early, Chris visited his grandmother, Minnie Kunitz, at the Davis News seniors' complex. Minnie was in the spotlight as most of the residents came down to meet her grandson and the Stanley Cup. The visit brought back wonderful memories for many, who engaged in discussing the greatest teams and players of all time.

At City Hall, Regina mayor Pat Fiacco warmly welcomed Kunitz and the Cup to the Queen City. After a special presentation to Chris, fans lined up to get photos with the Stanley Cup. For a small donation, with money going to the Saskatchewan Cancer Foundation, Regina residents could get Chris's autograph, too.

Chris and a friend sharing a drink out of the bowl of the Stanley Cup. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
Kunitz and company, along with the Cup, flew back to Chicago to continue the celebration. They went to their incredible apartment in Lincoln Park. There, you can go out back and there is a pathway to the deck situated on top of the garage. Along with fifteen or so friends, Chris and Maureen shared drinks out of the Stanley Cup with friends. The celebration ended with the group playing a whacky game of Beer Pong while visiting and munching on snacks.

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Mark your calendars for Friday's Stanley Cup Journal when we ‘hook’ up with coach Dan Bylsma. See you then!

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Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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