Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Red Deer's Cup Connections

By now you've seen and heard plenty about the Los Angeles Kings 6-1 win last night over the New Jersey Devils to clinch their first ever Stanley Cup title.

So let's take a bit of a different angle and look at how the Kings' cup win ties into Red Deer and Central Alberta... that is the point of this particular blog after all.

Let's start with Colin Fraser.  What a fantastic redemption story for this guy.  Remember the crap he went through at the start of the season?  Seemingly, no one wanted him.  The Oilers were trying desperately to ship him off to L.A. in exchange for what basically amounts to a throw away draft pick.  The Kings didn't want Fraser until he was deemed 100% healthy.  (In the end, Fraser went from Edmonton to L.A. in exchange for a 7th round pick and a small cash settlement to offset medical costs and avoid arbitration).  If that wasn't enough for Fraser to deal with... his young 19-month-old son Calder was hospitalized during the Kings playoff series versus Phoenix.  Colin returned to Sylvan Lake (his summer home) missed games two and three as a result.  But there Calder was last night on the ice celebrating with mom and dad.  What a beautiful moment.  Fraser is also the (fully deserving) Kings team nominee for the 2012 Bill Masterton Trophy and now has a second Stanley Cup title to go with the one he won with Chicago.

Bill Ranford was born in Brandon, Manitoba.  He then lived in Germany and Europe, Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, then Prince Edward Island and finally Red Deer.  He played Midget AAA here before moving on to the WHL in New Westminister.  I remember being a kid in Clive during the 1990 Stanley Cup Final when there was a buzz over the two 'Red Deer guys' battling for Lord Stanley's Mug, Ranford and Glen Wesley.  Though he no longer has the shiny mullet that powered him toward winning the Conn Smythe trophy in 1990, Ranford will get his third Stanley Cup ring as goaltending coach for the Kings.  And looking at the body of work Jonathan Quick put forth throughout the playoffs, it's safe to say that Billy did a pretty good job with the kid.  (One other bit of trivia... former Red Deer Rebels goaltending coach Andy Nowicki also spent four seasons as Kings goaltending coach from 2001-06.)

And, of course, there is Darryl Sutter.  On the 20th anniversary of his first becoming an NHL Head Coach with the Chicago Blackhawks, Darryl celebrated his first Stanley Cup title. Nearly 20 years before that, from 1974-77, Darryl played in 176 games for the AJHL's Red Deer Rustlers scoring 114 goals and 305 points.  The rest of his hockey journey is quite a tale.  I've said it numerous times (to anyone who will listen that is)... Darryl Sutter is a helluva hockey coach.  He misfired somewhat miserably as a General Manager.  But he excels at what is clearly his true hockey passion.  I'm not about to say that if he were still the Head Coach of the Calgary Flames that he would have won a cup title with them (the Flames' problems run much, much deeper than coaching and they unfortunately claimed brother Brent as a victim) but you have to think he would have given them a damn good fighting chance of doing so.  Certainly much more so than Jim Playfair or Mike Keenan.

There was almost one more Red Deer connection to the Kings cup win.  Trent Hunter played 38 regular season games for L.A. before being sent down to Manchester (AHL) in February.  According to my bit of research...
players appearing in 41 regular-season games, or one Stanley Cup Final game for the winning team, get their names engraved on the Cup.  The NHL can also make exemptions for injuries and other extenuating circumstances. 

So there you have it... Red Deer's connections to the Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup victory.  I do apologize if I'm missing someone.  E-mail me (sports@big105.fm) or send me a tweet (@Troy_Gillard) if I am and I'll fix it! 

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