Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 24
The Stanley Cup Journal

Eric Staal would do his Dad a great disservice if he didn't have his picture taken with the prized sod cutter of the family's Sunshine Sod Farms. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
After hip-hopping across Canada — Kamloops to Calgary, through Winnipeg to Thunder Bay — the Stanley Cup was delivered into the waiting arms of Eric Staal at 11:30PM Wednesday, August 9. Eric greeted the arrival along with his girlfriend Tanya. The couple took the Cup for a late evening get together with friends and family at the Neebing Road House. "There shouldn't be many people there except for a few guests," mentioned Eric, who then did a double-take when he noticed the restaurant/bar's parking lot was filled and spilling into the street. "Where did all these people come from?" he asked rhetorically. "I didn't tell more than a couple of people!"

It's amazing how the jungle drums beat when the Stanley Cup is involved.

The Stanley Cup was hugged, groped, fondled and kissed until 1:30. "We've got a long day tomorrow, so let's shut it down for tonight," suggested Staal.

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Thursday, August 10 saw Eric's father Henry meet the Stanley Cup and bring it over to the house, where Eric's Mom Linda and his brothers Marc, Jordan and Jared, waited. As has been well-documented, all four Staal boys have the exciting potential to be NHL stars. Eric, of course, is one of the offensive leaders on the Hurricanes, after debuting with Carolina in 2003-04 20 days before his 19th birthday. Marc is a defenseman in the Rangers' organization and it is likely he'll make his NHL debut this season upcoming. Jordan just completed his second season of junior, putting up very good point totals and was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in last June's NHL Entry Draft. And Jared, the baby, will suit up with Sudbury in the OHL this season. All four boys are well over 6' tall, and most respectful. It is obvious that Henry and Linda Staal did an excellent job in raising their brood.

Eric Staal treasured many things about this summer -- the Stanley Cup championship, the love of his family and girlfriend Tanya and his cottage on Lake Shebandowan. Enjoying a moment of tranquility, here, Eric savours each one of them. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
Bright and early, the Stanley Cup was placed on a table at the end of a long driveway at the Staal's Sunshine Sod Farm, adjacent to the family home. With the sod fields in the background and Eric seated next to the Cup, fans by the hundreds arrived before 8AM to get photos of Lord Stanley's Cup and the Hurricanes' star.

A huge public reception was next on the agenda, held at 10AM at the Thunder Bay Marina. Mayor Lynn Peterson headed the list of the official delegation in front of a crowd that included CBC television, ESPN, the Score, NHL Productions, representatives from the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame and 5,000 interested others. For three hours, Eric met fans and posed for photographs, but it was clear that not everyone in attendance was going to get through the line, so revisiting a page from previous Cup celebrations, the line was cut off and Eric carried the Cup up and down the line of those who wouldn't be getting to see the Cup otherwise, making hundreds of fans very pleased.

Early that afternoon, Eric took the Cup to the school he attended, the Thunder Bay Christian Academy. They, too, had a line-up to greet Eric, as 300 fans waited to get autographs and pictures of the 21-year-old hockey star.

Eric insisted that his grandparents get the chance to see the trophy he had helped his NHL team win. At the home of John and Lammie Stahl, Eric rolled in with the Stanley Cup. "There she is, Opa," Eric said, handing the Cup to his grandfather. Just then, his grandmother arrived from inside the house. She asked, "Where's your name, Eric?" "Oh, it won't be added until the end of the summer, Oma," Eric explained.

Eric's maternal grandparents then arrived to see their grandson and the Stanley Cup. "When I was playing minor hockey here in Thunder Bay, I used to get a dollar from my Grandma and Grandpa every time I'd get a goal," smiled Eric. "Yeah, but we soon had to stop that 'cause it was getting too darned expensive," laughed his grandfather.

While returning from the cottage he purchased last year, the Hurricane star stood in front of the thunder of Kakabeka Falls near his hometown.
(Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
"Y'know what I'd like to do if I have time? Last year, I bought a camp and I'd like to take it there for awhile." Assured that there was not only time but that he'd regret it if he let the opportunity pass, Eric and the Stanley Cup set off for his cottage, which is 45 minutes or so outside of Thunder Bay on Shebandowan Lake. As they drove, they passed a sign for the hamlet of Stanley. Eric wheeled his SUV over to the side of the road. "Come on," he summoned. "We've got to get a picture of the Stanley Cup in Stanley!"

As they continued on, Eric had another idea. "This is where I first played organized hockey," he stated, pointing to the Nor-West Rec Centre. "I've gotta get a shot here with the Cup."

Finally, Eric arrived at Shebandowan Lake and pulled up to his cottage. After taking a number of photos outside the cottage, Eric pushed open the door but wasn't quite prepared for what he saw. His brothers had camped out at the cottage and the place was a little worse for wear. "Jeepers, you guys," admonished Eric. "What the heck are you doing? I'm trying to keep the place clean!"

After relaxing at his camp for a little while, it was time to get back to the city for a backyard party that was going to be taking place at 7PM. On the drive back, Eric pointed out stunning Kakabeka Falls.

Arriving back at his parents' home, Eric's Dad asked for a favour. "Come on, Eric. Put the Cup on the sod cutter for me. I'd like to get a picture of that." Eric dutifully fulfilled the request. "I spent a lot of hours working on this farm," he nodded. "Not any more though."

By 7, the Staal's backyard had ballooned with 200 guests attending the family party. Every time Eric hoisted the Cup, a roar came from those at the party. None of Eric's brother went near the Cup. Following protocol, they'd wait until they had won the Stanley Cup themselves before lifting the legacy of Lord Stanley.

The party soldiered on through the evening and half way through the night. By 3AM, the Cup was in the kitchen, with a handful of friends reading aloud some of the storied names already engraved on the Cup's base.

It was 5:00AM when an exhausted Eric Staal finally bid the Stanley Cup adieu. "The day went so fast," he admitted. "But it was a cool feeling. In fact, it kinda gave me chills!"

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Emily and Erik Cole enjoyed their day with the Stanley Cup in Erik's hometown of Oswego, New York. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
It was Erik Cole's turn with the Stanley Cup, but the hand-off from Thunder Bay, Ontario to Oswego, New York did not go smoothly. A private jet had been sent to Thunder Bay in order to fly the trophy to central New York. At six in the morning on Friday, August 11, it was discovered that the Stanley Cup's case would not fit onto the plane. The trophy itself was no problem but the case was a mere inch too wide, and the Cup does not travel without its traveling case. Everything was attempted — from every conceivable angle, upside down, right side up, jamming it — nothing was going to get that case onto that plane.

So that the itinerary for Erik Cole's day wouldn't be irreparably damaged, it was agreed that the Stanley Cup would fly on the jet to Oswego and that the private airline would send another plane from Thunder Bay to Oswego with the case later in the day.

The flight finally left the northern Ontario city closer to 8AM, arriving in Syracuse, New York at 10. Erik, who enjoyed a break-out season with the Hurricanes in 2005-06, scoring 30 goals and 29 assists before breaking a vertebra in his neck towards the end of the season, met the Stanley Cup and was in a great mood, in spite of the delay in the Cup's arrival.

The Stanley Cup was driven to his family home in Oswego, where his wife Emily and children Bella and Landon, waited. The Coles' daughter and son ate their Applejacks cereal out of the bowl of hockey's historic trophy.

Emily and Erik Cole vowed to donate $1,000 for every point Carolina's #26 collected through the 2005-06 season. As a result, the Oswego library was recipient of $59,000 from the Coles, which was matched within the community. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
While the last of the milk was being drained from the Cup, the phone rang. The private plane company apologized but explained that they were unable to get the Stanley Cup's case to Oswego that day. Hmm. The Cup itself was in Oswego but would be unable to fly on a commercial flight a day later without its case, which put Bret Hedican's day with the Cup in jeopardy. Bret was called and vowed that he would do whatever it took to work the situation out.

Although late, Erik Cole proceeded with his plans. Given a police escort, Cole arrived for a special public event at Oswego's Fort Ontario. Acting Mayor Randy Bateman declared it 'Erik Cole Day' in Oswego on Friday, August 11. After comments from city officials, the public got the opportunity to greet Erik and get pictures with the Stanley Cup.

On hand were teams from the Oswego Minor Hockey Association, who will wear patches on their jersey commemorating Cole's victorious season with Carolina. Erik then announced that, as promised, he was donating $1,000 to the Oswego Public Library for each point he collected during the 2005-06 season, provided it was matched by local businesses or donors. A cheque for $59,000 was presented, with onlookers responding with tumultuous applause. The money will be used to help offer programs and services provided by the local library.

After the civic reception was completed, Erik and Emily, along with the kids, took the Stanley Cup to their cottage in Norwood, New York, up near the top of the state. A quick stop at Dunkin' Donuts along the way to fuel up and off they went.

With the hustle and bustle of each player's itinerary, it is seldom possible for the Stanley Cup to simply sit and reflect on the past 113 years. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
The Coles' lovely cottage overlooks Lake Norwood. The Stanley Cup was placed on a table on the cottage's extended backyard deck, while a feast of fajitas, Mexican lasagna and hotdogs was presented for friends and family. A disc jockey rolled music out for the celebrants, who partied on a nearby dancefloor. Teammate Craig Adams and his wife Anne, attending a wedding in the area, stopped by the Coles' party.

As the party was in full swing, Erik took Emily aside and presented her with a ring to add to the joyous nature of the celebration.

The event went all night, but by 5:30, only a handful of party-goers remained. Those there, including Erik and Emily, cuddled up with the Stanley Cup in front of the cottage's fireplace. At 6:30 that morning, it was time for the Stanley Cup to travel to Minnesota. Erik and Emily appropriately said goodbye to the Cup and sent it on its way.

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Join us again on Friday when we spend the day with Bret Hedican, wife Kristi Yamaguchi, and the Stanley Cup. You'll read about all the fun here in the Stanley Cup Journal.

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Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and On-Line Features at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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