Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 32

In between all of the travels and parties, Stanley takes a moment to be one with nature. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
From Wisconsin, the Stanley Cup skipped across the continent, landing briefly in Chicago before arriving in Calgary, Alberta on Sunday, August 17. It was Brad Stuart's turn to celebrate with the legacy of Lord Stanley.

A helicopter waited there for the Cup…but Brad refused to climb in. "I'm no fan of helicopters," he admitted. "You guys go ahead and I'll meet you at Rocky Mountain House."

Rocky Mountain House is a small but beautiful town in west-central Alberta. The historic spot served as an important trading post during Canada's rugged and rustic early development, and when a transcontinental railway was built in the late-19th century, the steam engines stopped at Rocky Mountain House on their trips further west.

While Brad made the two-and-a-half hour drive from Calgary to Rocky Mountain House, he had arranged for the helicopter to make a scheduled stop at Upper Ram Falls, a stunning locale nestled in a canyon in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It's a spot that time seemingly has forgotten — beautiful and virtually untouched. The helicopter dropped down vertically onto a ledge near the Falls, and with the Stanley Cup in tow, looked out over a rainbow.

Brad Stuart is given the key to his hometown of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta.
(Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
Not wanting to miss Brad, the helicopter set out for his hometown -- Rocky Mountain House -- and landed at the town's airport. Brad met the chopper and climbed in, much to the confusion of the pilot. "Hey, I thought you hated helicopters," he said, but Brad simply replied, "I can tolerate them for short trips." And a short trip it was. The helicopter rose and seemingly touched down almost instantaneously, landing in a football field. "Here we are," Brad announced. "Right beside the Lou Soppitt Community Centre."

Cradling the Cup, Brad disembarked and was met by a cacophony of fans and fire engines. Siren wailing, a firetruck escorted Stuart and Stanley to the community centre.

Although he joined the Red Wings from Los Angeles late in the season, Brad immediately made his presence felt on the blueline, and made significant contributions in the 21 postseason games played by Detroit, earning the honour of having his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. But on this day, Brad earned yet another honour. He was given the key to the city by his hometown.

"This is a special day for me," he began, looking out over the assembled crowd. "But it's even more special to have all the kids here. If I was a kid, I'd love the chance to come and see the Stanley Cup!" The audience roared in appreciation, reaching a crescendo when Stuart added, "I am so proud to be the first Stanley Cup champion from Rocky Mountain House!"

Stuart's night comes to an end with the champion proudly hoisting Lord Stanley's Mug above his head. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
For four hours that afternoon, fans lined up to get photographs and autographs, and Brad made certain no one went home empty-handed, in spite of the fact reports estimated that 2,500 lined up around the building to meet 'local boy made good' Brad Stuart. He chuckled when he looked out at the fans and saw so many wearing Brad Stuart jerseys, although some were Sharks, others Bruins, many Flames, a few Kings and quite a few Red Wings. He even pointed out some Calgary Hitmen jerseys, dating back to his junior days.

After six o'clock, 150 invited guests joined Brad and the Stanley Cup at the Pine Hills Golf Club. There, in the foothills of the Rockies, Brad, his family and friends enjoyed a buffet of roast beef and chicken parmigiana. Stuart stood on the large balcony and simply gazed out over the pines and soaked in the scenery.

After dinner, it was over to Boomer's Pub and Lounge, where the Wings' defenceman had a private party for his family and closest friends. Filling the bowl of the Cup with champagne, Brad treated his guests to sips of bubbly from the world's greatest champagne flute.

* * *

On Friday, the Cup heads to Saskatoon and a day with the coach of the San Jose Sharks. Huh? You'll find out all about it in the next Stanley Cup Journal!

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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