WINNIPEG - The captain of the NHL champion Chicago Blackhawks brought a special visitor to his hometown Friday to meet hundreds of fans.
Jonathan Toews showed off the Stanley Cup to Winnipeg during a public celebration before gathering privately with his family.
Hundreds of people lined up for several hours in blazing heat to meet Toews—and admire the cup—at a community centre named after the National Hockey League player.
They screamed and cheered as Toews gingerly carried Lord Stanley's mug past the crowd, hoisted it above his head on an outdoor stage and kissed it. Bringing the cup back to where he laced up his skates as a young boy was overwhelming, the hockey player said.
"It's always a pretty special feeling to see the support that I'm lucky to get when I come back to Winnipeg," Toews said. "Obviously this is an honour to bring this cup back to my home community centre."
The Blackhawks won hockey's highest honour last month in a dramatic sixth-game victory over the Boston Bruins. Toews scored a goal in the nail-biting 3-2 triumph. Although Toews is only 25, it's not the first time he's brought the Stanley Cup home. Winnipeg held a parade in his honour in 2010 when the Blackhawks also were Stanley Cup champions.
"It was a crazy two days. I don't think I had a spare minute to breathe," he said. "I was bouncing all over the city, but that's the way it's got to be. There are a lot of people ... that you have to recognize and share this moment with. Those are the people who helped me get there in the first place."
Chris Guimond was among the first in line to meet Toews. He came from the Sagkeeng First Nation reserve near Pine Falls, about 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, with his two sons, six-year-old Sabastien and nine-year-old Felix.
"It means a lot to me to see him again," said Guimond, who met Toews in 2010. "I just wanted the boys to recognize who he is and the kind of hard work he does on the ice."
Clutching an inflatable Stanley Cup and with a Toews rookie card in his pocket, Guimond said he just wanted to say congratulations to Toews.
"Two cups in four years is awesome."
Erin Fowle, 22, missed Toews during his last visit and was determined not to let that happen again.
She arrived four hours before the Stanley Cup arrived to snag a place in line. Her birthday was the day after Game 6. As the Blackhawks trailed, Fowle wished for Toews to win.
A few seconds later, the Blackhawks tied it up.
"I was so happy. It was the best birthday present possible," she said. "He deserves it. He's just fantastic"
Barry Catt, president of the Jonathan Toews Community Centre, said there were only a few days to prepare for their important visitors. But he said the chaos of being host to hockey's most treasured piece of hardware is worth it.
"It's very exciting," he said as hundreds lined up in the centre's parking lot.
"Every little boy in Canada dreams of scoring the winning goal for the Stanley Cup final. Next week I turn 60 and I still think I'm going to score that goal, so, yeah, it's a big deal."
Toews said he hopes to bring the cup back to Winnipeg a third time.
"Every time you win, you want to do it again. It's really an addictive feeling."