It’s been around since 1893 and has changed hands over a hundred times. Hundreds of people have hoisted it high after the hardest test of skill in sports. This week, after decades of anticipation, the Stanley Cup arrived in Bombertown.
Hockey’s greatest honour was brought to the community for a series of visits and exhibitions Oct. 17 by recent winner Erin Ginnell, an amateur league scout for the 2023 champion Vegas Golden Knights.
Ginnell is part of hockey royalty in Flin Flon, the son of former Bomber and team coach Paddy and the father of former Bombers Brad and Riley. Raised in Medicine Hat, Alta., Ginnell spent his early years in Flin Flon, growing up on Parkway Boulevard where Paddy coached the Bombers during Erin's childhood before moving to Victoria, Lethbridge, Swift Current and other locations.
“It feels great. When we first knew we were going to win it, there was no hesitation in thinking this is where we wanted to take it,” said Ginnell.
“It’s the first arena I ever skated on - and of course, all the history with our family, all the history of the hockey played there, all the championship teams, all the great players that have gone through there and great people who worked there - I couldn’t think of any other place to go in Flin Flon than the Whitney Forum. It’s perfect - really special.”
During the visit, the Cup went to four local schools and to the Whitney Forum, where it was on exhibit from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. The visit was part of a two-for-one trip, where Ginnell and fellow Vegas staff member Vaughn Karpan - who was born in Flin Flon and raised in The Pas - each got the chance to take the trophy home. Karpan took the Cup later Wednesday afternoon and evening to The Pas and Opaskwayak Cree Nation after its Flin Flon stint.
“We happened to find a little bit of a window to get it up there and logistically, we made it work,” said Ginnell.
“Once we found our timeline, we thought, ‘How can we get as many people in that window to see the Cup?’ We thought taking it to the schools would be great for the kids - they probably can’t get away during the day. With the Whitney Forum, people can come and go and it’s a central location and it’s kind of a hockey shrine in there, so that was a no-brainer - just to bring it as many people as we can.”
Flin Flonners have won the Stanley Cup before - Bobby Clarke, most notably, won it twice during his career as a Philadelphia Flyer, while Eric Nesterenko, who was born in Flin Flon and moved to Toronto as a youngster, earned it just once. Other Flin Flon-born NHLers like Ken Baumgartner and Dean Evason eked out long NHL careers, but never got to hoist the Cup.
While the Cup has been won by Flin Flonners before, it never made its way to the north before this week - the customary "day with the Cup" tradition began in 1995, after the heyday of most Flin Flonners in the NHL came to an end. Other hockey figures with Flin Flon connections have been involved as staff members for NHL teams, but not every team that wins the Cup gives a day with it to off-ice staff members - for instance, when Ginnell’s brother Dan saw his St. Louis Blues win the Cup in 2019, he didn’t get a day with the trophy.
“Every team is different - some teams don’t do it so everybody gets it, but our organization, they thought it was important for the guys to all get it. Obviously, we’re really thankful for that,” Ginnell said.
“Everything’s been great - it’s been bouncing around quite a bit all summer with the players, understandably because they only had a small window there before they get back to camp. Now, it’s kind of making its way through the staff members.”
“It’s something you dream of your whole life, right? Every kid playing in the backyard or on an outdoor ink, practicing with your buddies or whatever, you’ve always got that thought in the back of your head. It was special just to grab it, just to be there for it. It was real, real special.”