Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 10
The Stanley Cup Journal

Essex, Ontario is a town of 20,000 located a short drive away from Windsor and minutes away from Point Pelee, the southern-most spot in Canada. Relaxing, rural and rustic, Essex was the destination of the Stanley Cup on Sunday, July 9 when Carolina's equipment manager Wally Tatomir took the Cup home.

Wally Tatomir (lower right, to reader's right of GM Jim Rutherford), celebrates with his Carolina Hurricanes in the traditional celebration photo taken on-ice after a Stanley Cup presentation. (Stan Gilliland)
Tatomir has been working with hockey equipment for more than thirty years. Locals remember Wally well from his days with the junior Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. When the Compuware Sports Corporation purchased the Spitfires in April 1984, Tatomir first connected with the Karmanos family, owners of the junior franchise that in 1989, purchased the Detroit Junior Red Wings. The Compuware group, part of a larger and wonderfully loyal family headed by Peter Karmanos, purchased the NHL's Hartford Whalers in June 1994, moving the franchise to Carolina in 1997. Tatomir, deemed integral to the operation, was part of the Compuware team every step of the way.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then Wally is truly the mother of all mothers. He holds patents on four pieces of equipment he has devised to expedite matters with skates.

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Carolina equipment manager Wally Tatomir hoists the Stanley Cup during his day with hockey's prestigious trophy spent in lovely Essex, Ontario. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
The Stanley Cup was driven from Toronto south down the 401, an efficient highway that extends from Windsor in the south to Quebec City in the north-east. Expecting the precious cargo, a police cruiser was waiting at the Manning Road exit to accompany the Cup into Essex. After connecting, a second cruiser joined the procession of vehicles so that one police cruiser preceded the vehicle carrying the Stanley Cup and another followed behind.

The three-car convoy drove through the Essex Fair taking place that day and directly into the Essex Arena, where approximately 2,000 fans waited. Wally Tatomir opened the case holding hockey's most prized trophy, reached in and lifted the Stanley Cup over his head in triumph, to the cheers of most of South Western Ontario.

From just past noon until 5:30, fans got to get their photo taken with the Stanley Cup, as Wally and his wife Constance greeted each and thanked them all for coming out.

At 6:00PM, the Cup was taken to Canadian Legion Branch 201 on Talbot Street North for a party consisting of family and good friends. Dinner was served, with chicken, pasta and salad on the menu. Wally had supplied a number of autographed items for auction — sticks, jerseys, hats and posters — with the proceeds going to a building fund for a new arena in Essex. 50/50 tickets were also sold, with half of all money going to a single winner and the remainder also going to the Essex Arena building fund. Each of those at the private party had their picture taken with Tatomir and the Stanley Cup. Stanley Cup championship posters were distributed to everyone while Game 7's victory was replayed, much to the enjoyment of all in attendance.

Sometimes, you can have your cake and eat it too. The Town of Essex expresses its pride in native son Wally Tatomir. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
At 11 that evening, the party started to win down Wally thanked the community for their exceptional support through the years. "You mean so much to Constance and me," he said emotionally. The Stanley Cup was nestled back into its case and ready for its next adventure.

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On Friday, the Stanley Cup makes an appearance at the launch of the Carolina Hurricanes' championship DVD, then visits right winger Justin Williams. We'll see you back here then!

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Kevin Shea is the Hockey Hall of Fame's Editor of Publications and On-Line Features.
He is also co-author of the upcoming biography, 'Lord Stanley-The Man Behind the Cup'
to be published in October 2006 by Fenn Publishing.
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