Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 2009, 11

Sergei Gonchar and his family posed with the Stanley Cup at their idyllic home on prestigious Fisher Island. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)

During the National Hockey League's lock-out in 2004-05, Sergei Gonchar returned to his Russian homeland to play for Metallurg Magnitogorsk. There, he played with future teammate Evgeni Malkin.

After the lock-out was resolved, Gonchar signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and has been a stalwart on the Pens' blueline ever since. When Malkin arrived from Russia to play with the Penguins in 2006-07, he stayed with Sergei.

It was a tough season for the premier defenceman. In the first game of the pre-season, Gonchar dislocated his shoulder and underwent arthroscopic surgery that kept him out of the line-up until February 14, 2009. The Penguins were struggling to make the playoffs at that point, and two events can be pinpointed as turning points in Pittsburgh's season. One was the coaching change that brought Dan Bylsma into the fold, but the other was the return of Sergei Gonchar, who collected 19 points in the final 25 games of the regular season to help resuscitate his team.

Brunch at the Fisher Island and Resort was just one of the outdoor activities enjoyed by the Gonchar family. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Then, during Game 4 of the conference semi-final against Washington, Sergei suffered a knee injury in a collision with Alexander Ovechkin, and while the prognosis was not good, Gonchar was back in the line-up for Game 7. It turns out he played the remainder of the playoffs, including the scoring of the game-winning goal in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final on June 2, with a partially torn ligament.

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Sergei Gonchar received the Stanley Cup on Monday, July 27 and took it to his home on Fisher Island, an exclusive island three miles off-shore of Miami, Florida.

Dressed up and ready to go, Sergei and his silver sidekick took the ferry from Fisher Island to Miami for some evening entertainment. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)

Fisher Island is a story unto itself. The man-made island was created in 1905 as a land reclamation project. By 1919, Carl Fisher (after whom the island is named), purchased the property. Six years later, William Kissam Vanderbilt II, a railroad tycoon and part of the wealthy Vanderbilt family, traded a luxury yacht for ownership of Fisher Island, where he built a mansion that was used as a winter residence. The one-family island was later sold for development in the 1960s, and although the island sat vacant for 15 years, it was completed and is now an exclusive community, whose home-owners are reputed to include TV star Oprah Winfrey, tennis greats Andre Agassi and Boris Becker, movie star Julia Roberts, recording artist Ricky Martin and Pittsburgh Penguins' star defenceman Sergei Gonchar.

Gonchar started the evening with family photos around the Stanley Cup, then had the photographer join them and the Cup down on the beach. Sergei had friends from Russia and Toronto in for his celebration, and they enjoyed a wonderful evening together.

The next morning, Sergei and Ksenia took the Stanley Cup to the luxurious Fisher Island Hotel and Resort, voted 'Miami's Best Hotel' by Zagat's Survey. The Cup was place in the courtyard for guests and residents alike to view. Fans were welcomed to get their photograph taken with the Stanley Cup. For a $20 donation, with proceeds going to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, there were also autographed photos of Sergei.

Sergei played the role of bartender offering champagne in the most treasured Cup around. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
While Sergei worked out ("Hockey is a full-time job," he said), the Cup was taken back down to the beach, but returned to the courtyard where Sergei and his guests enjoyed a relaxing brunch, complete with flowing champagne.

Because Fisher Island is so exclusive, there is limited access to it, and one must take a ferry or fly to and from Miami. Prior to dinner, the Cup was thoroughly scrubbed and then boarded the ferry that took guests to Miami for the evening. At the dock, a limousine drove Sergei, his family and friends to Casa Tua, a stunning Italian-style restaurant housed in a refurbished 1925 mansion. The former upstairs lounge is now a private members area, and had been reserved for the Gonchar Stanley Cup celebration dinner. There, the 25 guests enjoyed a sumptuous meal then partook in an evening of karaoke, all within view of the lights of the city…and the Stanley Cup.

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From Miami to Montreal, the Stanley Cup Journal will give you a peek at the parties enjoyed by Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis. They were busy days, so hang on for the ride!

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

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