Justin Abdelkader is earmarked as part of the Detroit Red Wings future. In earning that designation, he also became part of the present, and earned a day with the Stanley Cup.
2007-08 was quite a season for the Red Wings' second round selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. In his third season starring with Michigan State, a season in which he finished second on the team in scoring (40 points in 42 contest) as well as a finishing as MSU's penalty leader (a whopping 107 minutes in penalties), the young winger turned pro, playing 2 games in the red and white of the Wings.
On September 2, Abdelkader had his turn with the Stanley Cup, and took it home to Muskegon, Michigan. A private plane met Justin at the airport at 9:00AM, and he was raring to go. He had 8 hours to spend with Lord Stanley's mug, and filled his time admirably.
The first stop for Abdelkader was the Muskegon Country Club, where Justin was joined for breakfast by 50 family members and friends. Then, they drove over to Reeths-Puffer High School, where Justin's Dad teaches. A stop at the Lakeshore Sports Center returned Justin to the rink where he had played as a youngster. Then, it was a stop at Mona Shores High School, where Abdelkader graduated in 2007. The school held an assembly in his honour, and a very proud alumnus carried the Stanley Cup into the auditorium to the roar of students and faculty alike. Justin credits his time playing hockey at the Muskegon high school for accelerating his development as a player.
Back at the Abdelkader home, Justin hosted a party, but by 5:00pm, the Cup had to be packed away and head off to its next assignment, in this case, an evening with captain Nicklas Lidstrom. "I only got it for a few hours, but it was better than nothing," smiled the young winger. There is little doubt that the NHL veteran of 2 games will have plenty of opportunities to attempt to get another day with the Stanley Cup in the years ahead.
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Netminder Jimmy Howard is another prospect with a very bright future. In 2005-06, he made his NHL debut playing 4 games with Detroit. During that brief stint, Howard set a record by facing penalty shots in his first two NHL games. In 2007-08, he again played 4 games with the Wings. Breaking into a crease that featured Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek is a formidable task, but with The Dominator's retirement, Jimmy hopes that he will be able to compete with Ty Conklin for a spot backing Osgood, and becomes the heir apparent to one day assume Detroit's first-string goalie role.
Jimmy, joined by his father, met the Stanley Cup in Ottawa, Ontario on September 4, and the two drove with the Cup for just over an hour to the family home in Ogdensburg, New York. Ogdensburg is located in northern New York State, just across the St. Lawrence from Canada.
Jimmy and his girlfriend had a gorgeous red convertible waiting, and drove the Stanley Cup to several spots within the city. The young goaltender felt it important to visit several area schools. "It just goes to show if you have a dream and you set goals and want to accomplish something, you can," he told the fascinated students. On behalf of all the students at each of the schools, Ogdensburg City School District Superintendent Hal Barry thanked Howard for his unselfish act of sharing the champions' trophy with the wide-eyed students.
After visiting the schools, Jimmy took the Cup to City Hall, where he met with Ogdensburg mayor William Nelson, who congratulated the champion on his team's accomplishment.
The Howards then hosted a backyard Stanley Cup party for family, friends and nerighbours. Jimmy's Dad, a teacher, coaches a soccer team, and all the little hit kickers were invited to meet Jimmy and get a picture with the Stanley Cup. Jimmy then took the Cup over to a park near the St. Lawrence where a gigantic turnout of fans waited to get the graphs (auto and photo).
Once all were taken care of, Jimmy decided it was time to party, and with official business out of the way, took the Stanley Cup to a local bar for a private celebration. The Stanley Cup party lasted well into the night, but by 2:30AM, it was time to pack it in. Like Justin Abdelkader, Jimmy Howard hopes that a bright future will include several more Stanley Cup celebrations. But that's what makes sports the greatest reality show of all you just never know what the results are going to be!
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The Stanley Cup Journal is back again on Friday, and we'll wrap up the Detroit Red Wings' summer of celebration with their banner-raising at the home opener. You are not going to believe what rockers Def Leppard did with the Stanley Cup!
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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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