By Robert Gauthier
YORKTON, Canada – The bus is full as it rumbles southwest on SK 10 from Yorkton, Saskatchewan. L.A. Kings center Jarret Stoll and his family surround the Stanley Cup as it sits smack dab in the middle of the bus. It’s still early in the morning and his day with Lord Stanley’s trophy is just starting as he gulps down a five-hour energy drink. He knows it will be a long haul until midnight, when it’s packed up and shipped off to another small Canadian town.
Sitting with him in the Cup’s chariot is Barry “Trapper” Trapp, onetime scout for Hockey Canada and mentor to Stoll when he was a young player. “Everybody wonders how a 70 year-old guy and a 30-year-old guy can be such good friends,” says Trapp, one arm draped on Stoll’s shoulder, the other resting on the spine of the Cup. “When you’re a part of Hockey Canada, you’re family forever. And I mean that,” he says. “He’s a special young man.”
Barry and Jarret cradle the Cup as the bus speeds toward his boyhood home of Neudorf, Saskatchewan, population nearly 300. A son of the Canadian prairie, Stoll is an anomaly. He has Hollywood looks and charisma but is known as a gritty, two-way player.
His first stop is with his grandmother, Doreen. “To take the Stanley Cup to my grandma’s house and to her garden was one of the best things I’ve done my entire life,” Stoll said as he talks about his grandparents at a banquet later in the day. “They were with us all the way growing up in a lot of the rinks watching us play hockey. Grandma sitting in her chair every game. She puts on that 28 jersey and she sits in grandpa’s old chair and she watches, and she watches, and she watches. A lot of times by herself. I really, really appreciate that grandma, and I love you very much.”
People numbering more than double Neudorf’s population lined up to see the Stanley Cup. It wasn’t clear if they were there for Stoll, the Cup or both. For Krystal Luther of Regina, it was clear as the country air of south central Canada. After waiting a few hours in line at the Weger Sports Complex field, she blows past Stoll on her way to a tearful hug of the trophy. “It was a dream come true; I can’t believe I’ve finally seen it,” she said as tears streamed down her face. “I’ve been a hockey fan since I was 4 years old, and I’m 32. It’s amazing.”
Hours later and an hour out of Neudorf, Stoll and the Cup sit atop a vintage fire engine in Yorkton, parading along Broadway Street with dozens of other floats, cars and revelers. The midday sun shines brightly on the silver chalice as he enthusiastically raises it over his head — over and over again. Past Tim Horton’s, past Sears, past K.W. Men’s Wear, slowly making their way to the Gallagher Center.
The sports hall is filled with hundreds of friends, family, former coaches, teammates, teachers and seemingly anyone else whom Stoll has touched in his lifetime. Rambling speeches filled with passion and platitudes echo throughout the immense building.
Beaming with pride, Trapper slips on a Team Canada Jersey, calls the audience to its feet.
“I want everyone to sing this song,” he commands the crowd.
“Sing it loud.
“Sing it proud.
“We’re going to sing ‘O Canada.’”