Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 14
The Stanley Cup Journal

July 9, 2003 -- It was a sad sight. On the day the Stanley Cup was reserved for Pascal Rheaume, he was taken away in handcuffs and leg shackles by the local police. Fans from the Quebec town of Becancour looked on in horror as he was driven away in a police car, lights flashing. His wife Annie could only laugh. The season had gone so well for Pascal, and then it all came down to being arrested in his hometown on what should have been one of the greatest days of his life.

Not the police escort Pascal was expecting.
Pascal Rheaume began his NHL career with New Jersey. Undrafted after a terrific season with Sherbrooke of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 1992-93, the Devils signed Rheaume on October 1, 1993 and assigned him to their AHL affiliate in Albany. In his second year as a River Rat, Pascal helped lead Albany to the Calder Cup as AHL champions. Then, on February 20, 1997, Pascal received the call he had waited for. He made his debut with the parent Devils that night, and scored a goal against the Florida Panthers. But his NHL stay with the Devils was just two games that time. From there, Pascal spent parts of four seasons with the St. Louis Blues. Then in 2001-02, Rheaume started the season with the Blackhawks but finished the campaign as an Atlanta Thrasher. At the beginning of the 2002-03 season, Pascal Rheaume was still wearing a Thrashers sweater, but by the end of February, he returned to New Jersey in a trade for a 2004 draft pick. Good fortune smiled on Pascal. While his Devils were battling for the Stanley Cup, former teammates in Atlanta were at home, watching with envy. They had not made the playoffs.

A retro "Celebration".
So all was great on Saturday…until the situation with the local constabulary. The day had started in Vanier, just outside Quebec City, at l'Entrepôt du Hockey, a large sporting goods store catering to the hockey player. Pascal's brother works at the store and Pascal was only too happy to sit with the Stanley Cup between 8 and 11AM, greeting a non-stop lineup of fans looking for an autograph and a photograph with the shining trophy. Pascal was born in Quebec City, so this was a homecoming of sorts, but for the last eight years, he has lived in Becancour, a town across the river from Trois-Rivieres, partway between Quebec City and Montreal. When he arrived in Becancour, Pascal, his wife Annie and their children Logane and Alexane went to a local photography studio to have family portraits taken with the Stanley Cup. A TV crew from RDS, the French sports station, followed Pascal around for the entire day, capturing the emotions of a boy's lifelong dream being realized. In the parking lot, a band dressed in platform soled shoes, outrageous bellbottom pants and wild, open-necked shirts with more chains than Mr. T on a good day, blasted their version of Kool and the Gang's hit, 'Celebration,' much to the delight of Pascal, his family and the TV crew. Pascal slipped into a boxing gym next door to say hi to the boys, then returned with the Cup to his home. Minutes later, a helicopter landed at the end of the street and the pilot beckoned Pascal and the Stanley Cup to join him for an aerial tour of the town.

Up, up and away
with the Stanley Cup.
The helicopter landed at 4:30, just in time for the guests of honour to lead a parade through Becancour. Pascal cradled the Stanley Cup in a Corvette convertible done up in Devils' red and black and emblazoned with Pascal's familiar Number 21. The parade, which wound its way through the town in front of a large crowd, also featured a firetruck and a number of floats. At the end of the parade route, the town had set up a fair with rides for the kids, a beer tent and a stage where fans could meet Pascal and get their photo taken with the Stanley Cup. All the money raised went towards minor hockey. The entire day was brilliantly organized, and as dusk was about to settle on the town, Rheaume returned with the Stanley Cup to his home. Pascal turned thirty years old on June 21, so had planned to have a few friends over to celebrate, belatedly. But as he pulled up to his home, the police grabbed Pascal, handcuffing his wrists and shackling his ankles. "What the hell's going on?" Pascal asked, but the officers had no time for questions. "You're under arrest for stealing the Stanley Cup!"' barked the police. Pascal looked over to Cup keeper Mike Bolt, begging for an answer but Bolt just shrugged. The police car, lights flashing, took off down the road with Pascal helpless in the backseat. The constables forced Rheaume to sing 'O Canada' over the car's speakers. Then…a smile crept onto the lips of Pascal's wife Annie. That smile evolved into a huge grin, then uncontrollable laughter. She had orchestrated the entire 'arrest.' Pascal was not in trouble, of course! He was being 'kidnapped' to a hall she had rented for a surprise party!

Rheaume at a fund-raising
fair in Becancour, Quebec.
Once in the hall, Pascal roared with laughter and embraced his wife. The ruse was elaborate, and the local police force performed their roles admirably. The Devils' winger was escorted to the stage, and friends and family proceeded to roast Pascal Rheaume with jokes and stories. Video clips from his childhood were shown, as were slides from his school days. A dozen beers were emptied into the Stanley Cup, and everyone in attendance got to sip out of the fabled bowl.

The party spilled out onto the streets of Becancour at three in the morning. But Pascal Rheaume had one final request for the waning hours of his time with the Stanley Cup. "We must find poutine. I have to have poutine," he insisted. The tired celebrants were on the hunt. A couple of times, a knock on the door of an unsuspecting resident produced not sleep-deprived anger, but legitimate surprise. "La Coupe Stanley! La Coupe Stanley! Viens ici, vite, vite!" Finally, Pascal Rheaume found a restaurant still open. He and the Stanley Cup were invited into the kitchen, where French fries with cheese curds and gravy were poured into the bowl of the Stanley Cup. Pascal, with a smile as wide as J-S Giguere's pads, ate his special treat out of an even more special vessel. "Trés, trés spéciale," professed Rheaume, "Very, very special!" He rinsed the Cup's bowl meticulously and said goodbye to the Stanley Cup, which was soon to be on the highway to Toronto and its next adventure. Pascal Rheaume had enjoyed a remarkable day, and placed his childhood dreams back on the edge of his pillow. "Incroyable," he smiled. "What a day!"

On Friday, read about some hockey legends who have their name inscribed on the Stanley Cup several times. One of those players, Joe Nieuwendyk, gets his turn with the Stanley Cup next, and you'll read about his adventure Monday on Stanley Cup Journal.

Kevin Shea is a hockey journalist and historian based in Toronto.

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