April 22nd, 2013
When AFHL Commissioner Anthony Furino handed Lord Stanley over to Lakehead’s captain Eric Staal, you got a sense this was just the beginning of a Lakehead-style party that would last long into the night.
After taking the Cup, Staal let loose with a loud yell before smacking three kisses on the coveted trophy. He skated for approximately 20 seconds with the Cup high above his head before handing it over to his brother Jordan.
“This is certainly something special,” Staal said. “You dream of winning the Cup, and you know what, I’m glad to know I was the first Ice Hole to ever lift it.”
Jordan Staal eventually handed the Cup over to Jarome Iginla. The procession continued as players such as P.A. Parenteau, Keith Yandle, Kris Letang, Antti Niemi all received a twirl with the Cup.
Defenseman Kris Letang returned from injury and scoredfour points in the Finals.
Andrew Ladd, who scored 8 points in the Finals, would eventually get his hands on the big prize, too.
And GM/Coach Jason Briggs would also have a chance to raise the Cup.
“Amazing,” Briggs said at his postgame press conference. “I had plans about this and had dreams about it. I wanted this to happen and I worked hard every day and took action, day-to-day decisions, running practices, everything. It’s also the players in our room. They’ve been tremendous all year. You can’t say enough about this group and how hard they worked.”
The pregame video just before the Lakehead Ice Holes took the ice at their home ice arena during the AFHL Stanley Cup Playoffs was accompanied by multicolored spotlights, a laser show and images projected onto the playing surface. The heart of the video, though, goes to the soul of this sport. There are pictures of the Ice Holes in their youth, boys wearing over-sized hockey equipment who dreamed of reaching the pinnacle of the sport they loved.
The boys in those faded photos arrived there Sunday night.
Lakehead, on the strength of their dominating offense, finished off the Manhattan Supermen with a 7-2 victory in the Stanley Cup Final, earning the franchise’s first championship in its four-year history.
The victory caps one of the most dominating seasons in League history. Lakehead finished the regular season with the best overall record and the number one ranked offense in the league. In the postseason, they were unstoppable. They defeated Oshawa City 10-1 in the first round. They defeated Toronto 6-4 in the second round. And they defeated Manhattan 7-2 in the Finals.
“I don’t know, I can’t even describe it,” forward Jarome Iginla, who at 35 years old the eldest of the Ice Holes, said after winning the Cup for the first time. “Everyone played road hockey as a kid. We had a green garbage can that everyone would go around and pose with it. We just did it for real, baby. This is awesome. It has been a great journey.”
The Supermen proved to be a tough foe all week before finally succumbing over the weekend. They also had a pretty incredible postseason run, knocking off the Vikings in the first round, and vanquishing the Vipers in the second round en route to their first Finals appearance in franchise history.
A small consolation was Manhattan goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who was awarded with the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
“Nabby” never smiled as he accepted the trophy and immediately skated off the ice with it as the Ice Holes applauded.
“That was very nice of them,” he said. “But the Conn Smythe Trophy is not the one I wanted.”
As the Ice Holes mobbed each other in victory at the final buzzer, tears rolled down Nabokov’s face. Teammate Henrik Zetterberg was the first player to console him as he rested his left arm on the net. Eventually he fell to the ice and took his helmet off. Soon, the rest of the Supermen skated up and patted him on the head. He used his jersey to wipe away more tears.
“I don’t think there was any question that he was the reason why we made it all the way to the Finals,” Zetterberg said. “He was unbelievable throughout the entire playoffs. It’s tough to lose when you make it all the way to the Finals, but this is a good thing for our organization. We took some big steps forward. We will be back.”
Jason Briggs thinks the Ice Holes will be back, too.
“We’re enjoying these emotions right now but it’s not over for us,” said Briggs. “I’m building a dynasty here.”
Ice Holes fans hoping to carry on their Stanley Cup celebrations will have another chance Thursday at a parade and rally scheduled in downtown Lakehead. The parade is to start at 12 noon.
Players and their families, coaches and others are expected to ride in double-decker buses and other vehicles during the 30 to 45 minute parade.
An hour-long “championship rally” is scheduled to begin at the Ice Holes home ice arena at 2:30 p.m., featuring video highlights, presentations and speeches from several players, the team said.
Tickets are required, but are free. They will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis and are available online. Officials said season-ticket holders and suite and premier seat owners would be given first priority, with the remaining tickets made available to the public at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
There is a limit of four tickets per order, officials said.
LIVE in Lakehead: Final Minute of Stanley Cup Finals
+ Ice Holes Locker Room Celebration