Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 16
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From Michigan, the Stanley Cup flew up to southern Manitoba, ready to begin a two-day odyssey with Anaheim Ducks Aaron Rome and Dustin Penner. Rome was born in Nesbitt but played his hockey in Souris, Manitoba while Penner hails from Winkler.

On July 6, the Stanley Cup first landed in Brandon, Manitoba, the special guest of Aaron Rome. Ironically, 100 years prior, the Stanley Cup was huge news in Brandon as well. In 1907, the Brandon Hockey Club challenged the Stanley Cup champion Kenora Thistles for hockey's supremacy, but was defeated by the smallest community ever to win a Stanley Cup championship.

From Brandon, it's about 30 miles to Souris, where the Stanley Cup spent the day with Rome, who started 2007 by being called up by Anaheim for his first NHL game, played January 2 against Detroit. Aaron's only other NHL game came in this spring's playoffs, when he played against the Wild on April 17.

Aarron Rome's off-season training at the gym sure paid off and he's got hockey's ultimate prize to prove it. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
After a brief stop at his parents' home, Aaron took the Stanley Cup over to the fitness centre where he works out during the summer. The pictures snapped almost as furiously as the weight trainers benchpressing their weight in iron. One fan brought over a copy of 'Travels With Stanley,' a book written by the Keepers of the Cup, to get autographed. Then, it was over to Source for Sports, where an outdoor barbecue was in progress as Rome and the Cup arrived.

The town of Souris has a published population of 1,800, but it seemed that every resident brought two or three friends to the civic reception held at the Souris Recreation Centre in honour of Aaron Rome. From 6:00 until 8:00pm, hundreds and hundreds of excited fans got photographs with the Stanley Cup and the local hero. Even Andy Murray, coach of the St. Louis Blues and a resident of Gladstone, just over an hour away, was in town, although he kept his distance from hockey's cherished grand prize. Another family had packed the car and made the twelve-hour trek from Thompson to see the Stanley Cup!

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Aaron Rome hoists the Stanley Cup at a local Source For Sports in his hometown. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The Peacock Pub, set up on the street during the Souris celebration, became a de facto home for Aaron and his friends, who ate poutine out of the bowl of the Cup, then washed it down with the coldest beer they could find, again, consumed from Lord Stanley's chalice.

As incredible a celebration as earning a Stanley Cup championship is, the Rome family really felt doubly blessed, as Aaron's brother Regan was being married the very next day (Saturday, July 7), and having the Stanley Cup in their midst added extra lustre to an already extraordinary family experience.

How much more Canadian do you get? Rome feasts on Poutine from the bowl of the Stanley Cup. The Canadian fast food staple features French fries topped with cheese curds covered with hot gravy.
(Mike Bolt/HHOF)
As the civic party continued, Aaron slipped away with the Cup and visited another bar. By 3:30 that morning, it was time to say goodnight, and Aaron took one final glance at the Cup before it was tucked into its case for the next adventure.

* * *

It takes three hours to drive from Souris to Winnipeg, Manitoba's beautiful capital, where the Stanley Cup was met by Dustin Penner.

The fact that the Stanley Cup is spending the day with him is incredulous to Penner, who scored the game-winning goal in the penultimate game of the 2006-07 NHL season. Cut three times by the Winkler Flyers, the junior squad in his hometown, Dustin figured the closest he'd ever get to the Stanley Cup was getting his picture taken with it in nearby Deloraine in December 2001 when he was playing for the Minot State--Bottineau Lumberjacks, a junior college team he made after trying out as a last-minute walk-on. "I wasn't taken aback by it because I knew I could never win it," he shrugged.

Following weeks of celebrations and travel, the Stanley Cup is examined by an MRI scanner with Anaheim Ducks' winger Dustin Penner. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Yet, since that day, Penner's career has catapulted with the speed of a satellite, much to the astonishment of everyone, including Dustin. Recipient of the Lumberjacks' Most Determined Player Award with Bottineau, Penner was scouted and signed by the University of Maine Black Bears, and joined the team for 2003-04. There, his improvement continued exponentially, and he was named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team after scoring the winning goal for Maine against Boston in the semi-finals. That May 2004, Dustin was signed by Anaheim after being pursued aggressively by several NHL teams. He played the 2004-05 season with Cincinnati of the AHL. The next season, 2005-06, Penner began in the AHL, but was called up for his first NHL contest on November 23, 2005 versus Dallas. That same season, Dustin was an AHL All-Star, but during his time with the Ducks, enjoyed a game against Phoenix where he collected two goals and an assist. Remarkably, the same kid who struggled to play hockey in his hometown was returning home, having scored 29 goals this season and helped Anaheim win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history!


Dustin Penner's accomplishments are acknowledged by the Mayor of Winnipeg Sam Katz outside City Hall as throngs of media and fans look on. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)

Dustin arrived at City Hall in Winnipeg on Saturday, July 7, cradling the Stanley Cup, and was greeted by Mayor Sam Katz, who bestowed honourary citizenship on the Anaheim forward. The media captured a gigantic smile that gleamed in the Winnipeg sun, as Penner shook hands with dignitaries and posed for a multitude of photos with fans surrounding City Hall.

Around noon, Dustin took the Stanley Cup over to Murray Chevrolet Hummer to show them the trophy. Then, he climbed into another big vehicle, this time a bus driven by his Uncle Dale, for the road trip to Winkler.

After a good hour's drive from Winnipeg, Uncle Dale pulled up in front of the Boundary Trails Health Centre, where Dustin's Mom, Linda, is a nurse. His grandfather was there to meet him, too. They took the Stanley Cup through the hallways, saying hi to so many of the patients, then stopped in an area with which Dustin is all too familiar. In fact, he has spent so much time in this particular room that his photo is taped to the MRI machine there. "Hey, they're responsible for putting me back together," he smirked with a shrug.

Winkler's 'hometown hero' Dustin Penner was honoured at a civic reception in his hometown and presented with a plaque and a key to the city . (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
A limousine then whisked Dustin and the Stanley Cup to the Winkler Arena, where a massive crowd waited in the sweltering heat to meet the local Stanley Cup champion. Minor hockey teams got photos with their hero first, before Penner was led downstairs, greeted by Winkler mayor Martin Harder. Mayor Harder presented Dustin with the key to the city, and in return, received a personalized Anaheim Ducks jersey.

Under a blazing sun, the Garden Valley Zodiacs announced that they would be retiring the number 27; the jersey worn by Dustin while playing his high school hockey. Laughing as he wiped the perspiration from his forehead, Penner said, "Gee, I'm sweating like I did when I took tests at GVC," and earned a huge roar from the assembled crowd.

"It's overwhelming. It really is," concluded Dustin. "It's great to see everyone come out!"

Penner then took the Stanley Cup back to his parents' home, where Terry, his father, and Mom, Linda, had the house all ready for Dustin and his special guest.

Later, the rookie forward made a quick stop at a local bar, shocking and amazing the patrons, before being driven back to Winnipeg. An amazing restaurant/ nightclub in the Manitoba capital was the final visit for Dustin Penner, who concluded his day with the Stanley Cup at 4:00 that morning. "Just walking into a place holding the Stanley Cup — it's like a magnet. I was pretty surprised at how ecstatic everyone was to see it," explained Dustin.

* * *

The Stanley Cup travelled back to southern California, visiting video co-ordinator Joe Trotta in Manhattan Beach on Sunday, July 8, then returning to the scene of the extraordinary June 4th victory for the launch of the Stanley Cup DVD at a special invitation-only party at Anaheim's Honda Center on Monday, July 9.

* * *

When you join the Stanley Cup Journal next Tuesday, we'll take you up to Quebec for a celebration with goalkeeper Jean-Sebastien Giguere. See you then!

Kevin Shea is one of the contributors to 'Travels With Stanley' by The Keepers of the Cup, a book of geography and history lessons taught through the travels of the Stanley Cup (Fenn Publishing).

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