Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 24
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The plane holding the Stanley Cup flew from Helsinki, Finland to Frankfurt, Germany, then on to the southeastern part of European Russia where it landed at the Kurumoch airport in Samara on Monday, August 6. From there, it was on to Togliatti, where it was met by Anaheim's netminder, Ilya Bryzgalov.

The Stanley Cup arrived at the small airport in Togliatti where the extremely strict security insisted on photos with hockey's magnificent championship trophy. When Ilya carried the Cup out the front door of the airport, he was mobbed by fans who had arrived by the busload and were chanting his name: "Bry-ga-lov! Bryz-ga-lov!"

Although it was six in the morning, a random parade formed behind the limousine carrying Ilya and his wife, Yevgeniya. A police escort led the procession that started with the goaltender and his wife and was followed by cars and buses, all honking their horns as they made their way into the city.

Anaheim Ducks netminder Ilya Bryzgalov steps out of the airport in Kurumoch airport in Samara and is greeted by busloads of fans who welcomed their hero home.
(Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
Bryzgalov stopped at the monstrous sign that marked the entrance to Togliatti and had his picture taken with the Stanley Cup in front of the 'Welcome' sign. From there, it was on to the Volga Sports Palace. Ilya played junior with Lada Togliatti in 1997-98 and 1998-99, then spent two seasons with Lada Togliatti in the Russian league before joining the Anaheim organization in 2001-02.

While enjoying a breakfast of eggs, cheese and sausage in the arena, the female chef lit up when she saw Ilya. She hugged and kissed him, telling stories of how she remembered him from when he was a boy of 13 or 14 playing at the arena.

The Stanley Cup was placed on display in the lobby of the Sports Palace and was viewed with awe by all those who came by. Alexei Kovalev, who won the same Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994, stopped by to visit. Like Bryzgalav, he too is from the hockey-mad city of Togliatti.

Bryzgalov hoists the cup outside a massive sign that marks the entrance to his hometown of Togliatti, Russia. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
The Cup was secured on a specially-built platform and placed on a Jeep that, escorted by the police, led a procession of cars to Avto-VAZ, where Ilya's father works. Togliatti is recognized as a major auto production centre, and this manufacturer is no small company, employing as many as 500,000 workers. Presentations were made at Avto-VAZ to both Bryzgalov and Kovalev.

Ilya then took the Stanley Cup on a three-hour cruise -- thank goodness there was no one named Gilligan on the boat! It was a scorching day, and the refreshing trip on the Volga River was a welcomed respite from the heat. Along the shore, the celebrants watched kids stripped down to their underwear running and leaping into the mighty river. When the boys spied the Stanley Cup, they rushed over to the boat but were told to get back.

With the Cup secured on a specially-built platform in a Jeep, Bryzgalov parades the Cup toward his father's workplace.
(Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
On the cruise, Bryzgalova was toasted by the invited guests, who dined on chicken, calamari, shrimp, beef tongue and fruit. "This Cup celebration is for my Dad and my children," stated Ilya, glancing over at his father, his wife and young children Valery and Vladislav. "I hope there'll be another, because the next celebration will be for me!"

After they left the Volga cruise, Ilya took the Stanley Cup to an office where both his best friend and his sister work, and a small celebration was enjoyed there as well. Then, it was back to the Volga Sports Palace where Bryzgalov signed autographs while visitors took pictures of the Stanley Cup.

Bryzgalov poses with Stanley at his father's workplace the Avto-VAZ auto production centre.
(Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
At suppertime, a small group went to Long John Silver's, a pirate-themed restaurant. An entire show took place while the group was eating dinner -- singers, dancers, fiddlers. A large cake was wheeled in and presentations were made while pictures were taken. Then, all of a sudden, pirates invaded the party, emerging seemingly out of thin air. They dragged Ilya down the stairs with the Stanley Cup (gasp!) A cannon was fired and there was much commotion. Ilya emerged a few moments later, dressed like a buccaneer and safely carrying the Stanley Cup. Whew! For a moment, everyone wondered how the Ducks would manage with a goaltender sporting an eye patch and a hook for a catching hand!

The surprise ended with a huge fireworks display outside.

"This has been a great day," exclaimed Ilya. "Time for bed!" With that, he held the Stanley Cup one last time and headed off while his father-in-law drove the Stanley Cup to the airport.

* * *

On Tuesday, we'll turn the page of the Stanley Cup Journal to the days spent in the London, Ontario area with Andy McDonald and Corey Perry. Join us then!

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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