Members of the Blackfalds Pee Wee Bulldogs hockey team got a surprise they aren’t likely to forget when Lord Stanley’s Cup made an appearance at their practice this past Tuesday night.
Players, coaches and even some parents from the team were able to see, touch and have photos taken with the NHL trophy. This once-in-a-lifetime surprise was done through Scotiabank and their involvement with Hometown Hockey.
Brian Porter, vice-president for Scotiabank Central Alberta, said that when Scotiabank got involved with Hometown Hockey, they wanted to be sure it recognized areas surrounding Red Deer.
Each of Porter’s branches was given the opportunity to sponsor a hockey team for $1,000 and Scotiabank’s Lancaster Branch in Red Deer did so for the Blackfalds Pee Wee Bulldogs. When Porter found out the Stanley Cup would also be going on tour, he thought it would tie in nicely with the sponsorship and as a precursor to this weekend’s Hometown Hockey events.
“Our partnership with the NHL has given us the opportunity to provide a unique experience,” said Porter. He added Scotiabank is committed to grassroots hockey programs in the communities it serves. As such it makes sense to share such experiences.
Because Scotiabank is the official bank of the NHL, Porter has done similar presentations with other young hockey teams in the past. However, he said the experience never becomes run-of-the-mill.
“It can’t get old for a moment,” said Porter. “And watching not only (players) but parents enjoy that at the same time, you can’t beat that.”
The Stanley Cup visit was a complete surprise to everyone on the team except for the Bulldogs’ manager and head coach. Brad Barber, another one of the team’s coaches, said he knew something was up when he was told he had to be at the rink tonight, but assumed it was just for photos relating to Scotiabank’s sponsorship, which is what the team had been told.
“I think the coaches were more excited than the kids,” said Barber. “But it was great to see the reaction.”
He added the players on the team probably don’t quite grasp the significance of them being able to see the Stanley Cup as a minor hockey team, but he knows it is something they will not forget.
“Hopefully it motivates them,” Barber added with a laugh.
He also said he is grateful to all who had a hand in bring the Stanley Cup to Blackfalds.
“It’s a great opportunity. I appreciate all the work that has gone into this.”
Mike Bolt, one of the official Keepers of Lord Stanley’s Cup who brought the trophy to Blackfalds regularly tours around the world with the Cup and is used to doing such visits. He said the reaction of all who see the Stanley Cup is different, but it is always something good.
Bolt shared Barber’s feelings that the significance of getting to see the Cup without being a winning NHL team might not be completely understood by the Bulldogs just yet, but it is a rare moment that will stay with them forever.
“Not many people have that opportunity,” said Bolt. “I don’t know if the magnitude or impact of today will sink in until maybe years down the road for some of these kids, but they will talk about this for the rest of their lives.”