Sunday, 30 May 2010

Both Teams Have Prairie Connections

In looking at the rosters of this year's Stanley Cup Finalists, there's a strong connection to the province of Manitoba. What is slightly more coincidental is that the last time the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers won their respective Stanley Cups, there was a strong Manitoba presence on those rosters as well. Now, there's a good contingent of other players also contributing, but the Manitoba-Northern Ontario region seems to have a lock on big-name players for both teams as they compete for the Stanley Cup. No matter who wins, the Stanley Cup will be visiting the Canada's center province.

The Philadelphia Flyers have three players from central Canada as Riley Cote hails from Winnipeg, Aaron Asham is from Portage La Prairie, and Mike Richards calls Kenora, Ontario home. Richards is the captain of the Flyers and plays on the top two lines, while Asham and Cote are role players used primarily on the third and fourth lines.

In 1974-75, the Flyers won the Stanley Cup with a Manitoban front and center. Flin Flon's Bobby Clarke was one of the most feared players both with and without the puck. Forward Reggie Leach was from Riverton, Manitoba, and he ended that season third in scoring on the Flyers. Defenceman Ted Harris was a solid defensive defenceman, and he hailed from Winnipeg. Of course, the head coach that year was the legendary Fred Shero, and Shero was also from Winnipeg.

While current head coach Peter Laviolette is not a Manitoban, the Flyers have three players in their lineup that played a lot of hockey in Manitoba as they grew up just as they did back in 1974-75. Richards is the leader of the Flyers this season, and led his team in points this season. Bobby Clarke was the leader of the 1974-75 Flyers, and he led his team in points that season.

Now, some of you might be saying, "Teebz, you know that Kenora is in Ontario, right". I'm well aware of the geography. Kenora, however, shares more traits with Manitoba than it does with Ontario. For example, it is part of the Central Time Zone with Manitoba, unlike the vast majority of Ontario. Most of Kenora's businesses will deal with Winnipeg than their major centers in southern Ontario because of the time and distance between Kenora and the Golden Horseshoe region. These are just a couple of the traits, but Kenora and Winnipeg do have a strong bond between the cities.

As for the Blackhawks, they have a number of players from Manitoba as well. Jonathan Toews is a born-and-bred Winnipegger, Patrick Sharp's birth certificate reads "Winnipeg", and Duncan Keith calls Winnipeg home as well. This Winnipeg trio leads the Blackhawks as well: Toews is the captain, while both Sharp and Keith are alternate captains.

The Blackhawks had a couple of Manitoba-born players on the ice during their Stanley Cup run in 1960-61. Eric Nesterenko was born in Flin Flon, Manitoba - the same place as Bobby Clarke - and he centered the second line for Chicago. Winger and teammate Ab McDonald was born in Winnipeg, and he most often lined up alongside Nesterenko.

Ab McDonald might be the most notable player in Blackhawks' history right now as he scored the game-winning goal in Game Six of the 1961 Stanley Cup Final to give the Blackhawks just their third Stanley Cup parade in their history. McDonald, who still lives in Winnipeg, told Earl McRae in the interview, "That’s why it’s so special to be in the final and especially to win because you never know if you’ll ever experience it again. A lot of players don’t. There’ve been many players, great players even, who’ve never got to the final in their careers."

So what does this all mean?

Well, with the number of players from Manitoba and northwestern Ontario playing in the Stanley Cup Final, the Stanley Cup will be coming to this region for at least one day this summer. It has been here recently before: when Kevin Hodson brought the Stanley Cup through when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1998, it was the closest I've been to it while in the possession of a Stanley Cup Champion. He came for dinner and golf at the prestigious St. Charles Golf and Country Club in Winnipeg where I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the magnificent trophy before it went out onto the golf course.

I'm excited about seeing the Stanley Cup come back to this city, even for a day. With all the players from this region battling for the Silver Chalice, I won't have wait too much longer.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

JTH said...

Well, I hope you're able to catch another glimpse this time around.

Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to be at the same Eddie Vedder show that Chris Chelios attended when it was his turn with the Cup.

Our seats were really close to his (he was in a private box about 25 feet to the right of us) so we got a pretty good look.