It’s often said that you can’t go home — but for a few hours on Saturday afternoon, a couple dozen “Old Boys” of Hope Minor Hockey and a few guests came home for an old-time street hockey tournament.
A few who never left home were there, too… one of whom would captain the winning team.
When they were kids, they might have been playing for a make-believe Stanley Cup. On Saturday, they were playing for a temporary chance at a genuine professional hockey trophy: the Calder Cup.
Hope Minor Hockey product Jeff Hoggan captained the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins to a Calder Cup win over the Syracuse Crunch in June and he made a plan to bring the cup to Hope this summer, when he visited with his wife Chevonne and sons, Hunter and Cam.
The NHL has for many years been allowing the winning players a chance to take the Stanley Cup back to their home towns. In the AHL, the tradition has more recent roots.
“The Norfolk Nationals started it last year,” said Hoggan on Tuesday.
As captain, Hoggan would have had first rights to the cup but he wanted to have it during his visit with his mom and dad, Ann and Gerry.
Unlike the NHL, the cup didn’t come with a white-gloved escort.
“It went out to Quebec, first. I scheduled it with the UPS guys and we had to go pick it up in Chilliwack,” explained Hoggan, who also won the cup 10 years ago, with the Houston Aeros.
“It’s about 35 pounds [16 kg] but it comes in a metal case, so it’s about 70 pounds [32 kg] in total. After Hope, it’s going to Vancouver, for my teammate, Landon Ferraro, then down to California,” he added. “I’ll have it with my college buddies at Omaha and then it’s going to Europe.”
Saturday morning, Hoggan and his brothers Marc and Aaron got a ride with Valley Helicopters to the top of Mount Hope for some memorable photos. Then it was down to Memorial Park for the four-team tournament, arranged by former HMHA player and official, Kye Grace.
With the aid of Facebook, phone calls and word-of-mouth, Grace pulled the event together in less than a week. Including the 28 players, about 75 to 100 people attended.
“Despite the short time frame, we managed to put together a day all of us will never forget,” said Grace.
“We felt it important that we not only acknowledge Jeff’s accomplishment but remember all the people who helped us develop as youngsters in Hope Minor Hockey,” he said. “Giving pre-game recognition to those that are no longer with us included Jeff’s uncle Larry Besse, Caesar Soares, Warren Rigby, Lorne Davies, Franco Talarico and Dan Sharrers. We were talking about how cool it would have been to have them there.”
“I played an audio clip received from the Griffins’ PR team, which included the last minute of Game Six and the post-game celebrations, then I motioned for Suki Manj of Hope RCMP, dressed in red surge, to bring in the cup.
“We had Yahna Bergen sing O Canada and Barb Sharrers dropped the ceremonial ball — then we had honorary coaches from back in the day draft the teams… Pat McInnes, Glen Wejr, Jerry Miller and George Johnston,” said Grace.
“It was agreed that no one else would pick the coach’s sons, so Pat went ahead and picked Landon Ferraro — ahead of his own boys. Heck of a strategy,” said Grace. “With Landon as a probable call-up for the Red Wings next year, Pat was on to something.”
So one team had Hoggan, with over 100 NHL games under his belt — and Ferraro, a rising star, was on Grace’s team… yet neither team scorched the earth.
In the end, it was Brian Druet’s Team White — coached by Jerry Miller — that went through all of their games with zero goals against, to win the cup. Jeremy Morris was Mr. Perfection in net.
It would have even more perfect if they had been wearing Bruins jerseys, Druet’s favourite.
“Druet was in his glory, I’ll tell you!” laughed Grace. “It’s something he’ll never forget — and good on him. The enjoyment he and everyone had was just the icing on the cake for a great season for Jeff.”
“Kye did an amazing job,” said Hoggan of the organizer. “We had a lot of laughs during our turtle-paced game of old time street hockey.
“No injuries were reported and most sticks were used for leaning on, rather than scoring goals. There were many air-gasping moments, reminding most that the fittest days have gone by.
“The Cup was on display in the park for those who wanted pictures with it, before Team White gained the rights of possession for the rest of the evening,” said Hoggan.
“It truly was an awesome day — and a fitting, small-town way of celebrating the Calder Cup.
“My initial dream was to one day bring Lord Stanley home but at 35 and just re-signing back to my role in Grand Rapids for the next two years, let’s leave that monumental step to the next young, upcoming, determined local dreamer to make a reality.”