By Kelsey Whaley, MIAC
WINONA, Minn. -- The Stanley Cup is one of the most hallowed and revered trophies in all of sports. For the Chicago Blackhawks and Saint Mary’s University, it is starting to become a bi-annual staple.
In 2013, the Blackhawks needed six games to beat the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals. As part of the Cup’s annual victory tour, team President and CEO John McDonough brought the Stanley Cup to his alma mater - Saint Mary’s University - for a public viewing and rally.
Two years later: Déjà vu. McDonough and the cup returned to campus for a special event at Saint Mary's on Thursday, Sept. 10.
“This is the most beautiful soil the Cup has ever been on,” said McDonough, “I like coming back [to Winona] period, but I certainly like bringing the Stanley Cup with me.”
This is the second time in three years McDonough has shared the Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory with Saint Mary’s. The Stanley Cup’s second trip to Winona, though, was slightly different from the first. For starters, it did not make any surprise appearances at Gabby’s or any of the other local establishments the night before. The Cup’s entourage has also changed. McDonough was not the only noted alumni to return to the Saint Mary’s. Eric Lear, reporter for the Blackhawks, and Adam Gill, video coach for the team’s AHL affiliate the Rockford Icehogs, also made the trip with the Cup to their alma mater. Both Lear and Gill are 2008 graduates of Saint Mary’s and play leading roles in the media and video department for the Blackhawks.
That trio has strengthened the sense of family between the Blackhawks and the Cardinals, which serves the Saint Mary’s community in many ways. The connection is not only a bragging right for current and former students and staff. It is also a source of inspiration and a guide for student-athletes and coaches, both on and off the playing surface.
At both the private luncheon and afternoon rally, McDonough emphasized the importance of, “one team,” in the Blackhawks organization. The coaches, players, and front office personnel are not the only people responsible for the team’s recent success. McDonough said everyone involved in the organization was critical to the Blackhawks championship seasons, from the interns to the team’s owner.
“These people are as much a part of this Stanley Cup as I am,” McDonough repeated many times throughout the day while referring to the organization’s philosophy.
The Cardinals and the Blackhawks share this, “one team,” philosophy, and Saint Mary’s tries to incorporate it in both academics and athletics. Brother William Mann, president of Saint Mary’s, echoed McDonough’s comments about one team, and encouraged the students in attendance to strive for their goals no matter the obstacles.
|John McDonough, Adam Gill and Eric Lear address the crowd at
Thursday's Stanley Cup rally at Saint Mary's University.
(Photo by Kelsey Whaley, MIAC)
The student-athletes in attendance also took McDonough’s message to heart and saw many parallels between 2015’s top NHL franchise and their own. Like the Chicago Blackhawks, there is a strong sense of family on the Saint Mary’s campus, and the Cardinal community extends beyond the school’s borders. The university has a high turnout at many athletic events and, like the Blackhawks, the Saint Mary’s athletic teams want to share their accomplishments, and those of their alumni, with the fans who support them.
“Having all the students here is good, and then getting our name out to the community as much as we can is good too,” men’s hockey captain Mike Mezzano said, “We had good support last year for all our sports, and this just brings even more excitement to our school.”
As the Holy Grail of hockey, and one of the premiere trophies in all of professional sports, the Stanley Cup also serves as a motivational tool for many of student-athletes on campus. However, Many of them saw the visit not only as inspiration for their upcoming seasons, but for their future careers as well.
“It’s great to see people that have graduated from Saint Mary’s succeed and come back to the community and share it with everyone,” noted Jessica Cwik, a junior forward on Saint Mary’s women’s hockey team.
There is still plenty of time, though, before the Saint Mary’s student-athletes have to start worrying about their future. Many of them are still eagerly waiting for practices to begin, and a visit from McDonough only fuels their desire for the dawn of a new season. Until then, though, these players will continue to support their athletic family until it’s their turn to take the court, field, or ice and represent their school.
“We’re really excited,” Cwik said,”[We] want to bring a good name to Saint Mary’s, just like Mr. McDonough did.”