Sports

Stanley Cup makes a visit to Winkler, Kenora 0

Local hockey hero Dustin Penner of the NHL champion Los Angeles Kinds was in Winkler Friday to meet hockey fans and display the Stanley Cup.

Hundreds of fans turned out for the event at the Southland Mall to get a look at the Cup and an autograph from Penner.

The Cup's visit to Winkler is part of the tradition which sees members of the NHL championship team getting the opportunity to take the Cup to their hometown during the off-season.

The Cup made its first visit to Winkler in 2007 when Penner and his Anaheim Ducks team mates won the National Hockey League championship.

-- WINKLER TIMES

Over 4,000 people turn out to welcome the city's NHL son

Bill Richards remembers seeing his nephew Mike Richards holding a hockey stick as soon as he could walk.

He didn't expect the then-tot to take his stickhandling this far.

"I don't know that I ever thought this would happen," he said Saturday as more than 4,000 people welcomed the city's NHL son home with the Stanley Cup. "But you have to think if you have that much desire and drive to do something 12 months a year, then you must have aspirations to go somewhere with it."

Mike Richards, the 27-year-old Los Angeles Kings centre, scored four goals and added 11 assists for 15 points in 20 playoff games, the eighth most during the 2012 playoff run. He thanked supporters during his speech.

"To bring something I've been dreaming about for 27 years back to Kenora is pretty cool," he told the crowd.

"I want to thank everybody for their support not only last season, but my entire career. Every time I come home, everybody is behind me."

Richards is the only player to hoist the Memorial Cup, the Calder Cup and the Stanley Cup. He also won gold as captain of Team Canada at the 2005 World Junior Championships and Olympic gold with Canada's men's hockey team in 2010.

Len Kropioski, who was behind him on stage, was introduced to the crowd as Kenora's oldest hockey fan. He said he'd seen the Stanley Cup before, but being on stage just feet away was the closest he'd ever been.

The 94-year-old Winnipeg Jets season ticket holder and one of Kenora's biggest supporters of amateur sports watched Richards flourish from a Kenora Midgets player into a NHL all-star when he moved to town.

"I definitely saw potential. There's always about three or four Midgets you see who have possibilities of playing in the NHL. It's a sad story because all of them want to play, but only certain types make it," he said.

Ryan Leroux called it "unreal" that his cousin Richards had come this far.

"It's surreal. During playoff time when it was getting down to the bitter end, everyone and their dogs were literally in jerseys cheering him on. It was pretty cool to see that," Leroux added.

Richards came in aboard the Grace Anne II, which circled Kenora's harbour with a handful of boats following. He and his family were then shuttled by the OPP Marine Unit to the docks for a procession into the Whitecap Pavilion. After the half-hour ceremony, he posed for pictures with fans for the next hour and a half. People were lining up for the noon-hour photo opportunity from as early as 8:30 a.m.

Mark Joss said the only experience that rivaled Saturday's Stanley Cup homecoming was when Kenora-native Michael Smith brought his gold medal back home in 1990 after winning the decathlon at the Commonwealth Games.

"The cheer as he came in was deafening, almost at the same level as everybody here cheering Mike on. This rivals and tops it a bit, but both are great athletes and are great for the city's history."

Brian Rupert, the event's emcee, called the city the number one hockey town in Canada. Kenora continues to hold the record for the smallest town to ever win the Stanley Cup, back in 1907 with the Kenora Thistles.

"When you look back at all the players that have come out of here, it's incredible for the size of the community. It's outstanding," he said.

-- KENORA DAILY MINER AND NEWS


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