Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 28
The Stanley Cup Journal

Cam Ward and his new bride Cody simply love the decorating ideas they discovered for their new Sherwood Park home. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Five-and-a-half year old Cam Ward was the sensation of the 2006 playoffs. 5½? Hold on! The kid was a rookie but it must be a typo! Actually, no! Cam was born February 29, 1984, making the Leap Year Baby (gulp) five-and-one-half years of age. But in 1989, when he was being CONSIDERED a five-year-old, Cam pulled on some homemade pads and a baseball glove and faced shots from his pals and his Dad in the basement of the Ward home in Sherwood Park, Alberta.

Even then, Cam loved hockey, delightedly sitting next to his Dad at Oilers' games any time the company seats came Ken Ward's way. Whether it was ice hockey or ball hockey, by the time he was a teenager, the parents of his teammates were already saying, "That kid is going to play in the NHL one day. Mark my words!"

After a sensational junior career in Red Deer, where Ward was named CHL goaltender of the year and runner-up to Sidney Crosby as the CHL player of the year, Cam joined the Lowell Lock Monsters and stood on his head as he earned a microscopic .937 goals against average.

Ward was considered the future of the Carolina franchise, and was to serve as understudy to rock steady Martin Gerber. But time accelerated when Gerber went down to injury and Cam was fast-tracked into the Carolina crease. He finished the 2006 playoffs with 15 wins and 8 losses, a goals against average of 2.14 and a phenomenal .920 save percentage, as well as two shutouts. Cam is just the fourth rookie netminder to win a Stanley Cup championship, joining Frank McCool of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1945, Montreal's Ken Dryden in 1971 and Patrick Roy of the 1986 Canadiens. "I couldn't be happier for Wes (Glen Wesley) and Roddy (Brind'Amour) and all those veteran guys. Whit (Ray Whitney), Dougie (Weight) -- they put in so many hard years and it's just great to see it pay off for them in the end."

The triumphant end also brought another reward to Cam Ward — the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP. "Obviously, it's a huge honour," admitted Ward, just the fourth rookie to win the esteemed trophy, something only done by Ken Dryden in 1971, Patrick Roy in 1986 and Rowdy Ron Hextall in 1987. "I truly feel that you could have given it to anybody on this hockey team. And to tell you the truth, the trophy that matters most is that Stanley Cup. Our guys deserved it."

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Cam's grandmother always told him to be aware of which silverware he should use, and Cam learned his lessons well. The 2006 Conn Smythe winner helps his Grandma celebrate with the best silverware anyone could imagine. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Cody Campbell could barely concentrate on her studies last spring. In fact, she was so distracted, she blew off her graduation ceremony to watch hockey. Although like most of us, it meant sneaking peaks at our text books during hockey intermissions, Cody abandoned her graduation so she could fly to Raleigh, North Carolina to watch her fiancée, Cam Ward, lead the Hurricanes to the promised land.

On July 22, Cam and Cody shared their promises in a wedding held in Sherwood Park, followed by a reception in Edmonton. "The Conn Smythe (Trophy) was right beside the head table," Ward chuckles. "I look at the pictures from the wedding and I see a lot of people posing with the Conn Smythe!"

After a Hawaiian honeymoon, Cam was back to business, but stopped long enough to enjoy his day with the Stanley Cup on Monday, August 21.

The Stanley Cup arrived at the Wards' home in Sherwood Park late on Sunday, August 20, and candidly, turned out to be the only furniture in the newlyweds' house. The only thing sharing the living room with the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy was an echo, and a pretty good one at that. The next morning, the Wards enjoyed a breakfast of champions — Corn Pops eaten out of the bowl of the Stanley Cup.

Cam, Cody, the Conn and the Cup drove to the seniors' residence where the goalie's grandmother lives. The spry 82-year-old was proud as can be to introduce her grandson and his toys to the other residents. One lady stopped to take a picture. "I haven't used my camera since 1971," she boasted. "Never had a reason 'til now!"

We've all seen bowling trophies for sale at garage sales, but no one has anything like these two gathering dust in their basement! The Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP and the Stanley Cup look on as Cam Ward and his group bowl for bragging rights. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The Stanley Cup became the prize in a bowling tournament next. Cam and his brothers-in-law are pretty competitive, and challenged each other to a bowling tournament. With an entourage that used six lanes, the party bowled three games. The win was split, with Carolina's goalie consistently scoring in the mid-hundreds. A birthday party of kids arrived at the bowling alley and went out of their minds when they discovered the Stanley was just one gutter away from them.

A mini-parade led Ward to a public appearance at the Sherwood Park Arena. In spite of the area being Oilers country, fans chanted Cam's name as he entered the arena, cradling the Stanley Cup. Although he spent his early childhood in Winnipeg, Ken and Laurel Ward moved to Alberta when Cam was in his teens, and he played his bantam and midget hockey in Sherwood Park. For three hours, Ward posed for pictures with the Stanley Cup and signed autographs. When it was evident he wouldn't be able to meet every single fan lined up to say hello, Cam was driven around on a pick-up truck to allow those on hand to see the Cup and take a photo. "I wouldn't be here in the first place if it wasn't for Edmonton, my family and friends, the city and the wonderful hockey environment it provides," he told the assembled multitude.

The family retired to Earls for steak dinner. Cody Ward was surprised to have the family present her with a cap and gown — the same ones she missed wearing during the Hurricanes playoff run.

The evening ended with a trip to a local golf and country club for a party with friends and family. Waiting to greet Cam and the Cup were teammates and local boys Ray Whitney and Mike Commodore, who by last count, was partaking in his eighth Stanley Cup party. "Look, if this was my final season, I'd've gone to every single party this summer," he laughed, his long red playoff ringlets a distant memory. Also attending were most of the guys Cam played hockey with locally. "Y'know something boys? Someday I'd like to own my own hockey team. Do you guys ever dream about things like that?"

One of the boys had a quick reply. "Cam, I can make your dreams come true! Why don't you buy my rec team? It'll only cost you a buck!"

Everybody laughed, but the as the smiles faded, Ward grew mildly pensive. "That's not a bad idea. Sold!" Cam bought the team, but turned the joke into a charity situation. Not only is his new team the best dressed in the league, but every time they score a goal, Cam donates money to charity. Everybody wins — the charity and (hopefully) the team. And Cam gets a taste of team ownership, Sherwood Park beer league-style!

The party carried on until 2:30 that morning, when Cam's dream day with the Cup came to an end.

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At 8AM on Tuesday the 22nd, a flight took Mike Commodore and the Stanley Cup to Grand Forks, North Dakota, the home of the Fighting Sioux. Mike played his college hockey in North Dakota for three seasons, starting with 1997-98.

Mike Commodore returned to Grand Forks to visit Frank White (left), his professor for sports sociology at the University of North Dakota, and brought something special to prompt class participation. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
A bus took Commodore and the Cup to the arena for photos, then Mike took the Stanley Cup on a sightseeing tour of the campus. "Ah man, this was my dorm room. And see that room? That's where I took sports sociology with Professor Frank White!" The course and its instructor were clearly favourites of the lanky redhead. Knocking on the classroom door with class in session, Mike poked his head around the corner. "Professor White! How've ya been?"

Unperturbed, Frank White invited Commodore into his class. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of my prized students, Mike Commodore, and he's brought a surprise for us." The class applauded wildly. Everyone knew the identity of both the former student and his prize, whether it was from watching NHL games, or because Professor White had so often referenced the Carolina defenseman. Mike and the Stanley Cup remained in the sports sociology class for its one-hour duration.

Commodore took Lord Stanley's legacy back to the arena, where the media waited to talk to Mike about the Carolina Cup victory. Later, Mike appeared on stage with the Stanley Cup during a public appearance attended by school dignitaries. More than 1,200 heard accolades and watched a highlight reel video. Then, it was down to the club level where Commodore invited friends to sip champagne from the brim of the world's most famous mug. Mike Commodore came so close to winning the hockey's championship in 2004-05, but vengeance was his in 2006, and Mike drained every drop of enjoyment out of his time with the Stanley Cup.

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The pages of the Stanley Cup Journal turn next to the entry for Andrew Ladd, and you can discover details of the rookie's day with the Cup on Friday. We'll be here waiting!

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Kevin Shea is the Hockey Hall of Fame's Editor of Publications and On-Line Features.
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