Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 2010, 17

Ben Eager and the Stanley Cup sharing a moment with his father and brother
Ben Eager and the Stanley Cup sharing a moment with his father and brother.
(Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Ben Eager was one of several Hawks who had, earlier in their career, also played with the Philadelphia Flyers. In fact, Eager's NHL debut came dressed in orange and black during the 2005-06 season. By 2006-07, he was not only a full-time member of the Flyers, but led the NHL in penalty minutes (233) despite missing 19 games and also briefly played in the minors. Big Ben had established himself as a tough winger who was quick to use his fists to defend his teammates.

Then, on December 18, 2007, he received what ultimately may have been the best Christmas gift of all. He was dealt to the Blackhawks for Jim Vandermeer. Slowly, Ben evolved into less of a scrapper and more of a regular contributor, scoring 11 goals in 2008-09 (along with 161 minutes in penalties) and a career-best 16 points in 2009-10. Oh, Eager hadn't abandoned his tough ways. Proof positive was his leading last spring's playoff campaign with 61 penalty minutes in 17 games.

Although less heralded than his Olympic teammates, Ben Eager made a substantial contribution to the Hawks' successful season, and in doing so, earned the right to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup and a day with Lord Stanley's chalice.

Visit Grandfather at the Bayfield Manor retirement home
Ben Eager brought the Stanley Cup to visit his grandfather at the Bayfield Manor retirement home. (Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Thursday, July 22 began with the Stanley Cup arriving at Ben's Ottawa condominium at 9:00AM. Joined by his Dad (Art) and brother Mike, photos were taken with the Cup overlooking the city.

The next stop was nearby Kemptville, where Eager spent part of his youth. Along the way, they stopped at Eager Road, a street named to honour the family. Truth be told, it isn't much of a street; really, a simple gravel road, but to the Eagers, it's the greatest street in the world -- the family was raised on that road.

Pictures were taken with Ben, the Cup and the road sign, and then they finished the ride by arriving at the home they once occupied. New residents live there now, but the house still holds a world of memories for Ben and his family. Not far away is Brantwood Park, where Eager learned his early hockey lessons on the outdoor rink. It's hard to comprehend that the journey of a Stanley Cup champion could originate on an outdoor rink amidst farm fields and progress through various stages to conclude with the biggest and greatest stage of all. Several hundred fans patiently waited in line to congratulate Ben and get their pictures taken with the Stanley Cup.

A reception was held at Brantwood  Park for Ben Eager and the Stanley Cup
A reception was held at Brantwood Park for Ben Eager and the Stanley Cup. (Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Reeling in the memories, the Eager clan next visited Dad's current farm, still in Kemptville and not far away, where they had more pictures taken. Ben was quite excited about the next stop on his travels. It was time to visit Kemptville's Bayfield Manor, a retirement home, where his 88-year-old grandfather, Raymond, keeps the residents entertained.

Raymond, wearing his Hawks' jersey with 'EAGER' stitched on the back, greeted his grandson with a huge smile. He proudly held the Cup and laughed, "I'd like to get some beer in it!" Ben spent some time visiting his grandpa, recounting tales, and then signed autographs for residents, their families and friends, many of whom had been waiting to see the Stanley Cup since early that morning.

Ben Eager and the Stanley Cup celebrating with family and friends
Ben Eager and the Stanley Cup celebrating with family and friends. (Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Eager and the Cup returned to Ottawa, making the 45-minute drive from Kemptville. Eagerly awaiting (if you'll excuse the expression) was a crowd of some 2,000, gathered in Brantwood Park to see Ben and his prize.

Brantwood Park holds special memories for Ben and his brother. While they played earlier in their careers in Kemptville, when they moved to Ottawa, the boys played shinny there. "Some games we played there were pretty intense," he recalled. "There are a lot of good memories playing outdoor with your buddies." On his arrival at the park, Ben met up with his Mom, Rosemary.

A civic reception was waiting, and Ottawa mayor Larry O'Brien welcomed Ben and congratulated him on his success. Then, 2,000 excited fans took their turn getting a picture with Ben and the Stanley Cup. "I remember when I was young, I always loved seeing the Stanley Cup," Ben said as he saw the number of kids lined up to meet him and see the Cup.

Ben Eager enjoying a drink from Lord Stanley's mug
Ben Eager enjoying a drink from Lord Stanley's mug. (Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Eagers stopped in at the Westin Hotel to catch their breath before heading off to the next celebration, which was a barbecue for close friends and family at the home of Ben's Uncle Frank. The catering at his lovely home was amazing — shrimp, chicken skewers and wings and lovely sandwiches.

The evening ended at a bar on Bank Street in Ottawa's downtown core, where revellers got to see hockey's great prize up close and personal. "As a kid, it's your dream. Now, it's starting to set in," he admitted.

Soon, a new hockey season will set in, one that will see Eager suit up with the Atlanta Thrashers, where he was traded 14 days after winning the Cup in Chicago. "I'm just enjoying my day with the Cup," he shrugged. "I'll get focused on next year when it's time!"

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Join us again on Tuesday when the Stanley Cup Journal heads to Strathroy, Ontario and a day with Brian Campbell and the Stanley Cup. Have a great weekend!

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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