Don DelNegro, the trainer of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, brought the trophy home to Lake Placid, and between 3 and 5 p.m. Tuesday an estimated crowd of well over 1,000 fans had the opportunity to pose with “The Cup” at the new Conference Center at Lake Placid.
A long line to enter the Conference Center’s Edelweiss Room snaked along the sidewalk next to the Olympic Center. In the crowd were plenty of jubilant, gold-and-black-clad Bruins fans patiently waiting for their chance to pose with the trophy.
DelNegro, who has been the Bruins’ head athletic trainer for the past 18 years and has a home in Lake Placid, said two practices the team held at the Olympic Center during its first-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens did indeed play a role in the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years.
“We knew back in April, before the playoffs, that we needed a place to go,” DelNegro said. “We had a few days off in our series against Montreal. We needed a place to get away, and there couldn’t have been a better place than Lake Placid. I remember the weather was great, the guys loved the area and, most importantly, they loved the restaurants.
“They came here to rest, relax and regroup, and that’s what they did. During our run to the Cup, we played 25 out of possible 28 games. It was a real grind. I think the players and coaches really appreciated their time in Lake Placid.”
Before the fans flocked through the Conference Center doors to view the Stanley Cup, community officials honored and thanked DelNegro for bringing the trophy to Lake Placid.
“When I first drove up, I thought I saw an Irish wake,” said North Elba town Supervisor Robi Politi, describing the line waiting to see the Cup. “Today, Don’s cup runneth over.”
After Politi was finished declaring Tuesday, July 12, 2011 as Don DelNegro Day in Lake Placid, he invited the Bruins trainer to speak at the podium. As DelNegro approached, Politi introduced the shaved-headed trainer as “the Howie Mandel of the Boston bench.”
“When you spend 18 years in the business, you dream of a day like this,” DelNegro said. “It’s a trophy like no other. Really it’s a trophy for the people. No other professional sport allows its championship trophy to travel home with the players and other team members. Getting the chance to take the Stanley Cup home to Lake Placid for my family and friends to see is wonderful. It’s a dream come true.”
Fans came from near and far to see the Stanley Cup in Lake Placid, including brothers Jacob and Justin Vezina, who coincidentally have the same last name as another NHL award, the Vezina Trophy, which is annually given to the league’s most outstanding goaltender. This year, that award went to Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas.
Justin said when he first found out on the Internet that the Stanley Cup was visiting Lake Placid, he called his brother, and at 10 a.m. Tuesday, they left their home in Hartland, Vt., bound for the Olympic Village.
“We traveled three hours just to see the Stanley Cup,” Justin said. “Oh, it’s phenomenal. We’ve been Bruins fans our whole lives, and we’ve never had this chance.”
“It’s exciting seeing the trophy that the players touch,” Jacob added. “Having this chance means the world to me. It’s a thrill.”
As team trainer, DelNegro was allowed to keep the Stanley Cup for one day. Earlier on Tuesday, the trophy made its way to numerous locations around the Olympic Village, including the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, where many of the Bruins dined when they practiced here. At that establishment, the Cup was filled with the brewery’s well known Ubu Ale. After the public viewing, the Cup was heading to a party at DelNegro’s home.
“Whether you are a player on the winning team or hockey fans, this trophy is for everybody,” DelNegro said.
Howie Borrow, a Mississauga, Ontario resident who works at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, is currently escorting the Stanley Cup, helping to make sure it arrives safely at its many destinations while on tour with Bruins players and personnel. Borrow said he visited Lake Placid once prior to Tuesday, about 20 years ago when he skated in a Can-Am Hockey camp at the Olympic Center.
“It’s great being here. This is a big hockey town,” Borrow said. “I’m not worried about the safety of the Cup. It’s been through a lot —there are plenty of stories of strange things that have happened to it — but people are pretty respectful of the Cup.
“This is the most famous sports trophy in the world. The Super Bowl trophy, the NBA championship trophy — they are brand-new every year, but this is the same Stanley Cup that has a 120-year plus history. The trophy here today is the same one held by Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, the legendary Maurice Richard.”
As temporary caretaker of the Stanley Cup, Borrow will soon travel overseas with European Bruins players who will celebrate with the trophy in their home countries. He said he is thrilled to be traveling to Europe for the first time.
“I’ll be going to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Finland to help make sure those players will enjoy their time at home with the Stanley Cup,” Borrow said. “It’s the people’s trophy. It belongs to hockey fans everywhere.”
The Stanley Cup last made an appearance in Lake Placid in February 2009, when it was on display at the 1932 & 1980 Winter Olympic Museum. Jon Lundin, spokesman for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, said that on that day the museum enjoyed a one-day record attendance of 771 visitors.
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Boston Bruins trainer Don DelNegro poses with the Stanley Cup trophy just before fans come for a public viewing session Tuesday, July 12 in the Conference Center at Lake Placid.