Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 20
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Over the course of four years playing NCAA hockey for the Ferris State University Bulldogs in Big Rapids, Michigan, Chris Kunitz proved to be a highly dependable forward, putting up big numbers in the production department. In fact, during his final season, 2002-03, Kunitz was the Central Collegiate Hockey Association's player of the year and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top college player in the United States, posting 35 goals and 79 points in just 42 games.

"Ever since elementary school, my goal was to earn a college scholarship," mentioned Kunitz. "Play hockey and get an education." But like the little snowball rolling down the hill, everything just got that much bigger and faster for Chris. "It turned into having a great team, having personal and team success and from that, the dream just kept growing!"

Although undrafted, it didn't come as a huge surprise that the Regina-born forward would not only make the NHL, but contribute similar numbers when he arrived in the NHL, as he did last season with the Anaheim Ducks. Trailing only Teemu Sellane, Andy McDonald and Scott Niedermayer in point production, Chris finished fourth on the team in scoring, collecting 60 points on 25 goals and 35 assists.

The Anaheim Ducks' Chris Kunitz and the Stanley Cup in the Ferris State University Bulldogs dressing room
Chris Kunitz returns to the Ferris State University Bulldog Hockey Club's dressing room with the game's top prize.
(Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Chris Kunitz cherished his time in Big Rapids. For one, it's where he met his fiancée, Maureen, during his second year. But there were other lifelong friendships made, too. In fact, Chris and Maureen attended the wedding of Trevor Lange, a fellow Bulldog with Chris, on Saturday, July 21, then hung in so that he could share the Stanley Cup with friends he made while attending Ferris State. "We rekindled things at the wedding," he smiled. "We reminisced about old stories. That stuff is a lot of fun!"

When Chris was given July 23 as his day with the Stanley Cup, he decided to split the day, spending part with friends and teammates on the Ferris campus, then heading home to Saskatchewan to share with family and friends.

Monday, July 23 began with Chris and Maureen attending a fundraising breakfast at the ballroom in the local Holiday Inn. With 250 tickets sold, the presence of Kunitz and the Cup helped raise a substantial amount of money for the American Cancer Society. Maureen's parents came in from Chicago for the day, and sat with the engaged couple. Chris was very pleased to see his Ferris hockey coach, Bob Daniels, also at the event.

Following breakfast, many boarded a bus that took Chris to a special ceremony at the Ewigleben Ice Arena. A number of fans wore special Chris Kunitz t-shirts. Once at the arena, City Commissioner Dan Rothstein awarded Chris the key to the city, and declared July 23rd 'Chris Kunitz Day' in Big Rapids, Michigan.

The Anaheim Ducks' Chris Kunitz and the Stanley Cup drop by Mecosta County Medical Center in Big Rapids, Michigan to visit a special fan
As part of his day with the Stanley Cup, Kunitz dropped by Mecosta County Medical Center to visit a special fan.
(Mike Bolt/HHOF)
For the next 90 minutes, Chris posed for photographs with the Stanley Cup and signed pictures for fans. Astonishingly, every single person in the massive crowd got what they came for. And again, donations went towards cancer research.

Chris and the Stanley Cup then visited a fan at the Mecosta County Medical Center. While there, he made certain to visit the doctors and nurses who take such great care of those unfortunate enough to have to spend time at the facility.

Having already packed a day's worth of activity with the Stanley Cup into a few hours, Kunitz was driven from Big Rapids to Mount Pleasant Municipal Airport where he climbed into a private plane that took him, Maureen and a few former Ferris teammates, including his old roommate Troy Milam, to Regina, Saskatchewan in order to continue the Stanley Cup celebration for the remainder of the day!

Milam, who played on the Bulldogs for three years with Kunitz, wasn't surprised that Chris wanted to split his day with the Stanley Cup. "He's got two families. He's got his family back home in Regina and he's got his Ferris State family. That's who he wanted to share the Cup with."

During the flight, Chris was asked when it really sunk in that he was a Stanley Cup champion. "Hmm, good question," he pondered, then quickly answered, "When I hoisted the Cup with my Dad there on the ice with me, that's when it sunk in. To be able to share the experience with him was very special."

The Anaheim Ducks' Chris Kunitz retrieves the Stanley Cup after his flight from Big Rapids, Michigan to Regina, Saskatchewan
After his flight from Big Rapids, Michigan to Regina, Saskatchewan Kunitz was quick reunite himself with the Stanley Cup. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
After landing in the Saskatchewan capital, the Kunitz clan was driven to Riffel High School, where Chris played his high school hockey. There, for two-and-a-half hours, he met friends, family and fans, who waited anxiously to see the local lad. More than 300 got their picture taken with Chris and the Stanley Cup, and donations were channeled to the Allan Blair Cancer Centre.

"I got to see people I hadn't seen in years," grinned Kunitz. "I saw family members and people I went to high school with. Everybody just loves the Cup and how much it means. I'm just really grateful I could bring it back."

Chris's father, Marvin, explained that Regina hadn't actually been home to the Kunitz family for awhile. "We live in Calgary now, you know. There's no real home here anymore, but it was still important for Chris to bring the Stanley Cup back to Regina to share it with his friends and family." Marvin, whose perma-grin creased his face all afternoon, added, "It's such a fantastic feeling after having put him through hockey all those years, running around to rinks and tournaments. For him to make the NHL was something, but to win the Cup so early in his career is just fantastic!"

Later that evening, Chris slipped the Stanley Cup away to The Press Box Sports Bar, where the Stanley Cup didn't look out of place amidst autographed jerseys from Bobby Orr, Steve Yzerman and others. All of Chris's buddies were there with him, each taking a turn drinking out of the Stanley Cup. "I'm trying to stay up all night with it," Chris laughed, although it turned out that there was a great deal of seriousness in his quest. As the night went later and later, Chris finally gathered his buddies around him and announced who would be in his wedding party when he and Maureen share their special day. Hugs and tears abounded. The phrase, "Love ya, man!" was repeated several times.

Finally, as the birds began to flutter and the sun had pushed the darkness out of the way, the Stanley Cup practically had to be wrestled from Kunitz, who had enjoyed his day as much as anyone who ever had his name engraved on the trophy. "I don't want to let it go," he admitted. "It's definitely an honour to carry the Cup around," he said from behind bleary eyes. "I got to share the experience with a lot of the people who had big roles in my life. I've enjoyed every second!"

* * *

The Anaheim Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf and his girlfriend travel in style with the Stanley Cup en route to Regina's Conexus Arts Centre.
Ryan Getzlaf and his girlfriend travel in style with the Stanley Cup en route to Regina's Conexus Arts Centre. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Still warm from its time with Chris Kunitz, the Stanley Cup stayed in Regina on July 24 for a day with Ryan Getzlaf. In just his second NHL season, both with Anaheim, Getzlaf established himself as a star on the rise; a coveted piece of the Ducks' puzzle that bloomed into a 25-goal scorer in 2006-07 and was the team's leading playoff scorer during their Stanley Cup run this past spring.

A police escort preceded a convertible carrying Ryan and the Stanley Cup into Regina's Conexus Arts Centre beginning at 8:30 on that Tuesday morning, July 24. After a few words of praise to the young Stanley Cup champion, Getzlaf and some special guests took part in a special ball hockey tournament with the proceeds going to Ronald McDonald House. Corporate teams paid $500 each to participate, while honoured guests included Ryan Getzlaf and Mike Sillinger of the New York Islanders. $18,000 was raised for the wonderful cause.

One young fan took special delight in attending. Ten-year-old Ryan Smith from nearby Estevan had embraced the Ducks as 'his' team from the age of three. Ryan went door-to-door to raise money for the charity, collecting $703 with a smile.

The Anaheim Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf and the Stanley Cup pose with ten-year-old charity fundraiser Ryan Smith
Getzlaf poses with an elated ten-year-old by the name of Ryan Smith who went door-to-door to raise money for charity, collecting $703. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Although the young fan couldn't participate in the tournament, Ryan Getzlaf made certain that he spent time with his new little buddy, who was beyond ecstatic to meet the Ducks' star and to pose with hockey's incredible Stanley Cup.

Early in the afternoon, Getzlaf took the Stanley Cup to a local park in order to get some photographs taken, then went back to the family home to enjoy a little relaxation. The entire Getzlaf family was anxiously waiting to see if Ryan's older brother Chris, a rookie wide receiver with the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League, would make it into Regina.

Supper-time entailed a return trip to the Conexus Arts Centre, where family and friends gathered for a private Stanley Cup celebration. As the family was about to be seated, Chris Getzlaf burst through the doorway, embraced by his kid brother. "I left right after practice, and I knew it would be close, but I made it," said Chris.

The family enjoyed a wonderful meal and celebrated with the Stanley Cup until 2:30 the next morning. "Getting to see how happy everybody is around me has been great," beamed the young Anaheim sniper. "I worked for this day for a long time since I was younger, and it just feels so good!"

* * *

The Anaheim Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf hoists the Stanley Cup as part of a photo shoot in a park in Regina, Saskatchewan
At a beautiful local park, Ryan Getzlaf hoists the Stanley Cup as part of a photo shoot. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Can't believe it's Friday already! Back again Tuesday, when the Stanley Cup Journal visits Stewart Valley, Saskatchewan with Travis Moen, then heads off to British Columbia for time with GM Brian Burke. You'll laugh when you find out how Moen prepares hockey's greatest trophy for his boss!

Kevin Shea is one of the contributors to 'Travels With Stanley' by The Keepers of the Cup, a book of geography and history lessons taught through the travels of the Stanley Cup (Fenn Publishing).

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