Many hockey players start dreaming about what they would do on their day with the Stanley Cup when they are young. What would you eat out of it? Where would you go? Who would you share it with?
Not many players will ever plan a day as meaningful or as special as Chandler Stephenson's visit to Humboldt on Friday.
On Thursday, Stephenson brought the Cup home to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It was a typical Cup day that included eating out of the Cup and giving fans the chance to get an autograph and have their pictures taken.
For most players, that is where the story would end. Stephenson, however, got a second day with the Cup Friday and the opportunity to take it to Humboldt.
"It just hits close to home, just down the road in Saskatoon and just being a part of hockey," Stephenson said to reporters Friday. "It's a sport that's so much bigger than you'd expect in all the friendships that you build and the brotherhood that you form throughout the years. It's something that hit the hockey community pretty hard."
On April 6, tragedy shook the hockey world when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team was struck by a truck at a rural Saskatchewan intersection. The crash killed 16 people, including 10 players. Another 13 people were injured.
“It's something that should never happen,” Stephenson said to reporters Friday. “You can't really put into words. It's not supposed to happen ever. The brotherhood and the bound that you form on the bus, it being a second home, some of those road trips are the best times and the best memories that you have.”
One of the first stops of the day was the memorial site and it soon became clear just how emotional a day this was going to be.
#StanleyCup visits Humboldt Broncos memorial site. While their Stanley Cup dreams went unfulfilled, we thought we’d bring Stanley to them. God Bless 🎚 RIP Saskatchewan highway intersection #35 & #335) @NHL @HockeyHallFame @HumboldtBroncos #HumboldtStrong pic.twitter.com/ST3eUfXCIg— Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) August 24, 2018
Stephenson and the Cup arrived in Humboldt Friday morning with Stephenson sporting a Humboldt Strong shirt.
He also met with many of the families of the victims.
“It’s tough to talk to them,” Stephenson said. “All you can do is give your condolences. Nothing can replace a life so you just try to help out as much as you can and that's what this day was all about.”
The Cup was on display at the Elgar Petersen Uniplex where fans could meet Stephenson and have their pictures taken with him and the Cup.
The idea of taking the Cup to Humboldt started even before the Caps won it. Stephenson began talking about the possibility when the playoffs began, long before it looked as if a Caps win was a realistic possibility.
“I just wanted to do what I could and help out as much as I could,” Stephenson told reporters Friday. “There’s a lot of talk about it just kind of going in the playoffs that if we were to win the Cup, that this is something that I wanted to do.”
Once Washington won the Cup, Stephenson said planning the event “snowballed” and a number of NHL players joined Stephenson for Friday’s celebration.
Stephenson will be joined by fellow players B. Schenn, S. Hartnell, A. Graves, W. Redden, J. Manson, T. Hamonic, M. Jankowski, B. Kulak, B. Manning, R. Murray, T. Leier, B. McNabb, N. Nogier, C. Joseph, L. Pederson, C. Hobbs, C. Campoli and A. Ference. #HumboldtStrong— Humboldt Broncos (@HumboldtBroncos) August 22, 2018
Friday was a day of healing for Humboldt, one in which Stephenson said he hoped to "put some smiles on some people's faces."
In that, Stephenson absolutely succeeded.