13 was lucky for Derek Meech. The Winnipeg-born defenceman (who also slips onto an occasional forward line) spent the 13th of July with the Stanley Cup back in his hometown.
|Breakfast of Champions - Derek fills his Cup of Fruit Rings with champagne. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The Stanley Cup rolled into Winnipeg on Sunday, and Meech had a full day itinerary set out. Derek had prepared for his first day with hockey's historic trophy by combining a day of celebration with a day of remembering those who had helped guide him to a National Hockey League career.
We've all been taught that breakfast is the single most important meal of the day, and that notion wasn't lost on Derek. Spending the morning at the home of Pat and Lee Meagher, Derek and his family enjoyed a breakfast of Fruit Rings out of the Stanley Cup, washed down with gulps of champagne. "Yuck," laughed Derek. "That's a lethal combination!"
Parents are the unsung heroes of elite hockey careers. Those who helped aspiring hockey players take their first unsteady strides across ice, wiping away tears and snow (and often, hot chocolate) from cold little, and sacrificed much of their own personal lives to drive minor hockey players to early morning games and across provinces and states to out-of-town tournaments, later gave way to agents and coaches and trainers.
But none of those sacrifices is ever forgotten, especially when the Stanley Cup is handed to players. Moments of ecstasy immediately dissolve into thoughts of those pride and dedication served as a stepladder in order to climb the rungs of hockey success.
|Derek Meech and the Stanley Cup
made countless friends touring the
Winnipeg Children's Hospital.
(Winnipeg Children's Hospital/HHOF)
Derek Meech was thinking about his mother when he planned his day with the Stanley Cup. "My Mom passed away from cancer when I was 11," he says. "As a tribute to her, I wanted to take the Cup to Children's Hospital. A lot of those kids are pretty sick, but the Cup definitely brought some smiles!"
Just after lunch on Sunday, Derek took the Stanley Cup to the hospital for a two-hour visit with the kids. He posed for photographs with the children and their parents, and signed a ton of pictures and Red Wings jerseys.
Later in the afternoon, Meech returned to the rink where he played as a youngster. Hundreds waited his arrival at the Dakota Community Centre, where Billy Keane, the brother of Manitoba Moose star Mike Keane, holds his Optimal Training. Billy was there along with hundreds of fans, who got to meet the Red Wings' rookie and to get a picture with the Stanley Cup. "To come back here is really special," he said. "I used to play here. They had to drag me off rink!"
After two hours of signing autographs, a limo-bus met Derek at the Dakota Community Centre and, along with some good pals, whisked them around Winnipeg, including The Forks and Osborne Village. The entourage returned to the home in which Derek grew up, then continued on for a night of partying. The celebration began at Earl's, then at 2AM, moved to a more private party at another restaurant. Finally, at 3AM, Derek tucked the Stanley Cup away in its case.
He briefly reflected on the past season, and certainly is prepared to join the team again for the 2008-09 season. "Detroit is a great place to learn. The older guys taught me so much," he stated. "It was incredible to be part of a great thing that we had in Detroit."
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Darren Helm met the Stanley Cup in Winnipeg on Monday, July 14 and took it about half an hour northeast to St. Andrew's, Manitoba, and the home of his parents Gary and Corinne. "I don't think they've ever seen the Stanley Cup," shrugged Darren. "Parents have to do a lot to get a person like me into this position."
|Darren Helms and friends, including his mother to his left, ride atop a Zamboni as they enter the packed St. Andrew's Community Club Arena. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The breakfast tradition continued, but the Helms chose Silly Rings for their Stanley Cup treat, then all drank milk out of the bowl. Curiously, the Cup has held champagne, beer and so many things since it was first awarded in 1893, but something as wholesome as milk doesn't often find its way into the bowl of the Stanley Cup.
Once the last drop of milk had been consumed (and that last elusive Silly Ring trapped and eaten), Darren climbed into a limousine with the Stanley Cup and embarked on his awesome adventure.
After a stop at the local Chrysler dealership, Darren met fans at Keystone Sporting Goods in Selkirk, took some pictures and signed some autographs. Next, it was the Selkirk Golf and Country Club.
A quick visit with the Stanley Cup to a nearby Subway preceded a stop at Harry's Foods, where Darren often rode his bike as a youngster to get an ice cream. Lunch was eaten back at the family home, where the sandwiches were accompanied by beer consumed from the Stanley Cup.
|The next best thing to hoisting the Cup
is hoisting a Cup-winner. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
After lunch, an autograph/photograph event was staged between 2:00 and 5:00 at the St. Andrew's Community Club Arena. Led into the rink by a Zamboni, Darren greeted two thousand fans, spending more than three hours smiling for pictures with the Stanley Cup. A large pink octopus hung above centre ice, a nod to the fans of the Red Wings tossing octopi onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. "I'm glad to be able to bring it home and share it with my family and all the people that helped me along the way," Helm said. "It's a dream!"
Darren was concerned that he'd be the laughingstock of his teammates if few people showed up for the event in St. Andrew's. "We were a little bit worried that not many would come out," he admitted. He needn't have worried. It seemed like everyone in the community and beyond arrived to get a picture with the Stanley Cup. "How the Cup attracts people is unbelievable!"
The Helms then hosted a barbecue dinner for 150 friends and family members back at their home. It was a sensational potluck buffet, with back bacon grilled on the barbecue. Darren's Uncle Randy came in from Victoria, B.C. for the Stanley Cup party; a sweet reunion, as it was the first time in nine years that they had seen Randy.
After dinner, the group went back to the arena for dancing and drinking from the Stanley Cup. Darren refused to let anyone cut in on his dancing partner the Stanley Cup!
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Next up, the Stanley Cup Journal will visit Dallas Drake and Mike Babcock, so set your dials for excitement and join us back here on Tuesday.
Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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