It was a special day for Ray Bennett, assistant coach with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, as he brought the Stanley Cup to his hometown of Innisfail, Alta.
On Monday, hundreds of local residents lined up outside the Innisfail Twin Arena to take a picture with the legendary hockey trophy, which the Avalanche won this year.
The team’s assistant coach grew up in Innisfail, about 100 kilometres north of Calgary, playing minor hockey and graduating from the local high school in 1980. Bennett also used to play with the Innisfail Eagles senior hockey team.
Bringing the cup home was very special for Bennett.
“I’m proud to have been raised in this community,” he said.
“When the opportunity came to bring it back here after we won, it was an easy, very quick decision,” he said.
Bennett started coaching in the NHL in 1999. He spent seven seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, then 10 with the St. Louis Blues before joining the Avalanche for the past five seasons.
Chance of a lifetime
For many residents who lined up to see the cup, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they had to take.
Everett Olsen said he heard Monday morning that the cup was coming to town, and he knew he had to get to the arena right away.
“Everybody wants to be with the Stanley Cup once in your life,” he said.
Rob Hamill, another town resident, said he went to Red Deer College with Bennett in the 1980s. Hamill said getting to stand next to the cup feels special for any Canadian.
“As a kid, you never got a chance to see the cup, so it’s kind of cool,” he said.
As for Bennett, this moment of having the trophy is one he will cherish.
“It took me 23 years of coaching in the NHL to get the opportunity to raise it over [my] head,” he said.
“You do not take it for granted.”