Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 06
The Stanley Cup Journal

In spite of the sign, residents of the Whitefish River First Nation rubbed their eyes and thought they were dreaming when the vision of hockey's highest team award showed up at their minor hockey banquet. (Mike Bolt)
There is strong evidence to believe that Canada's First Nations people played a sizeable role in helping hockey take root in Canada. The Mi'kmaq Tribe from Nova Scotia, for example, played stick and ball games locally that were likely adopted and adapted by British military personnel when they arrived in Canada in the 1800's. We know with full certainty that the Mi'kmaq mass-produced the first hockey sticks late in that century. So, with full respect, it was especially pleasing for the Stanley Cup to visit the Whitefish River First Nation on Birch Island for their year-end minor hockey banquet.

There is a strong spiritual essence to this area, dating back a century to when the ancestors of today's residents inhabited the entire area. Birch Island is nestled just east of beautiful and historical Manitoulin Island at an interesting crossroads of fresh water sources. The island is located in sparkling Georgian Bay, with Lake Huron just below to the south, Lake Superior to the west and Lake Michigan to the south-west. By virtue of the riches with which nature has blessed the area, you can imagine that fishing, boating and hiking would be the principal pastimes of both residents and visitors to the area. But don't think for a second that hockey is not a serious contender!

Youngsters attending the afternoon banquet in Whitefish River stand in front of the War Memorial as they pose with the Stanley Cup. (Mike Bolt)
The Stanley Cup arrived on Birch Island at noon on Saturday, June 18, and was polished to a brilliant shine for the banquet, which began at one o'clock. While some of the minor hockey players, their coaches and associates gobbled up the tacos, many of the boys and girls examined the Stanley Cup, barely able to believe that the same trophy carried around the ice a year ago by Dave Andreychuk, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards was now sitting at the Whitefish River First Nation. Special guests included Chief Shining Turtle of Whitefish River, Brent St. Denis, the Member of Parliament for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing and George Francis, the president of the Little NHL tournament, which held its thirty-fourth annual tournament in March 2005, this year in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Ted Nolan, newly-hired as coach of the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, got his start at the Little NHL tournament some years back.

The Stanley Cup sits perched in a boat scooting across Georgian Bay on its way to breathtaking Killarney. (Mike Bolt)
NHL players with aboriginal blood who inspire the youth by having their names engraved on the Stanley Cup include George Armstrong with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Theo Fleury of the Flames, Reggie Leach with the Philadelphia Flyers, Bryan Trottier, who won four championships with the New York Islanders' dynasty as well as two with the Penguins, and Chris Simon as part of the Colorado Avalanche. The youngsters then gathered outside to get their photos taken in front of a memorial to veterans who served in World Wars I and II.

Later Saturday afternoon, the Stanley Cup was loaded onto a boat and navigated through midnight blue Georgian Bay, around the many small islands that dot the waters in that area, curled around Badgley Port and Badgley Island and arrived in Killarney. Along the way, the vessel carrying the Stanley Cup pulled up alongside other boaters who loved the spontaneity of reaching out to the Stanley Cup in this most unpredictable of places.

The village of Killarney overlooks the stunning white quartzite cliffs of La Cloche Mountains. The Group of Seven's A.Y. Jackson was so inspired by the splendour of the area that he selected Killarney as a locale in which to paint his historic landscapes of jackpines and mountain wilderness. The Cup stopped into the Sportsman's Inn, which has welcomed visitors looking for solace and beauty since 1903. The Stanley Cup was welcomed by members of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Members of the Canadian Coast Guard stand on guard for thee...and La Coupe Stanley. (Mike Bolt)
That night, the Cup and its keepers stayed at Lang Lake Resort in Espanola. Hosts Konstantin and Mila Aizenberg, a Russian family, raced out to find their teenaged son, who is a huge fan enthralled with the talents of Sergei Federov. He thought his Dad was teasing when he was told that the Stanley Cup was staying as a guest in their resort. The son's mouth dropped wide open and resembled one of the bigmouth bass caught nearby.

Partway between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario's near north sits the City of Elliot Lake. Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, Elliot Lake owes its existence to the discovery of uranium in the Canadian Shield nearby. Among a year-long slate of anniversary events, the Stanley Cup's arrival was sure to be the one longest-remembered by residents.

The Cup had never before visited Elliot Lake, so this Father's Day was destined to be even more special for these fathers and their children. Four hundred people arrived at Centennial Arena to get their picture taken with Lord Stanley's legacy. A local teacher had constructed his own trophy, the Copper Cup, to be awarded to the winner of a road hockey tournament. Based on the Stanley Cup, this model was identical, although five or six pounds heavier. "It's the best reproduction I've ever seen," stated Philip Pritchard, one of the Stanley Cup's custodians. He should know; he's been taking the Cup to events for fifteen years!

At Centennial Arena in Elliot Lake, Philip Pritchard of the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Stanley Cup met a copper look-alike, fashioned by a local teacher. (Mike Bolt)
Participants in a slo-pitch tournament at nearby Parsons Park got a jolt when the Stanley Cup showed up in the on-deck circle. The Cup was on its way to Rock Pine Resort in Pointe au Baril, about half an hour away from Parry Sound.

Monday, the Stanley Cup was a guest of the seventh annual Anishinabek Veterans' Memorial Golf Tournament. It was a star-studded affair at the Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club near Orillia, Ontario that drew a who's who from the hockey world, including the French Connection (Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and René Robert), Bobby Baun, Gerry Cheevers, Greg DeVries, Shean Donovan, Dave Hutchison, Larry Keenan, Wayne King and Brad Park. Starting at 11:30 that morning, when each of the foursomes arrived at the tenth hole, they stopped and smiled with their arms around the Stanley Cup.

Join us again on Tuesday when the Stanley Cup begins its summer tour with champions of the past. Red Kelly and Dick Duff kick off the celebrations, and you'll be right there to enjoy them all with the Stanley Cup Journal.

Kevin Shea is the Hockey Hall of Fame's Manager of Publishing and Editorial Services.
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