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A long and winding road

Childhood dreams can come true: Arniel finally gets a chance to participate in Stanley Cup final

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The road to the Stanley Cup final wound its way through Winnipeg for both New York Rangers' head coach Alain Vigneault, left, and his top lieutenant Scott Arniel.

LARRY MACDOUGAL / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

The road to the Stanley Cup final wound its way through Winnipeg for both New York Rangers' head coach Alain Vigneault, left, and his top lieutenant Scott Arniel.

Somewhere there's a kid with a mini-stick and a puck slamming around in a basement pretending the Stanley Cup is on the line. Someday, for a very rare few, imagination will morph into reality as it is about to for Scott Arniel.

Over 1,000 games as a pro player and now almost as many as a coach, Arniel is finally going to the Stanley Cup as an associate coach and Alain Vigneault's top lieutenant with the New York Rangers.

The 51-year-old Winnipeg resident has won an international gold medal for Canada, two Memorial Cups, a Turner Cup and competed for the Calder Cup during his hockey journey. Now he's close enough to touch the trophy all hockey people want. The Stanley Cup. Just three words, but in hockey it is the beginning and the end. It's what kids first dream of and what keeps full grown folks up at night.

For Arniel, who skated for both the Winnipeg Jets and the Manitoba Moose as well as coaching the latter, this is a moment long in the making with all the requisite ups and downs that make up a career. From getting drafted to being traded. From being hired to being fired, Arniel's hockey life has been blessed and doomed.

It's a testament to the man that no matter what the news each morning brought, they've all just added up to another day in the life. Eat breakfast, shower, go to the rink. Deal with whatever comes up. That's been Scott Arniel for a long time.

Winning the Stanley Cup, however, might be reason for a little bump in the routine. Here's his chronology to the Cup:


1966: Getting started

"My older brother played. My mom and dad hauled all four of us kids to the rink to watch my brother play. My dad got me skating and playing and even coached me in Kingston when I was growing up. My dad helped me and pushed me. Having a family that would put the time into hockey and that could afford to pay for it gave me a chance to do something I loved doing."

 

1979: Cornwall kids

"In the summer of 1979, Dale Hawerchuk was drafted in the first round by the Cornwall Royals and I was taken in the second round. We won two Memorial Cups. The first year we were underdogs. The second year, we added Doug Gilmour and we won again. Little did I know it would be a long time before I would win again at the pro level."

 

1982: Welcome to Winnipeg

"Same thing as in junior. The Jets took Dale in the first round and then me in the second round. John Ferguson was the GM and I played the first 20 games or so for the Jets and he loaned me to Team Canada for the world juniors, and the tournament started in Winnipeg and then moved down to Minnesota. We ended up winning and it was the first time Canada sent a team of its best players from across the country. We played the Czechs for the gold medal at a small rink in Rochester, Minn. They had sold out the rink in Bloomington for the Russians and Team USA. They didn't have a recording of Oh Canada. So, and I don't remember who started it, but we sang ourselves. Now they do it every year. It's neat to know I was part of that tradition getting started."

 

1986: Goodbye Winnipeg

"I got traded to Buffalo in the summer. It was a shock. The first time it happens it hits you hard. I felt like they didn't want me anymore. But then I got to Buffalo and we had a good group and it was a lot of fun."

 

1996: Mr. Moose

"I was playing in the playoffs in the IHL for Utah. Butch Goring was the coach and Kevin Cheveldayoff was the assistant GM. Randy Carlyle phoned me and told me that Mark Chipman was going to buy an IHL franchise and put it in Winnipeg and would I like to play there. I thought I was ready to retire but then I played three more years in Winnipeg. It worked out great."


2000: Behind the bench

"Randy had become the coach and he asked me if I wanted to be an assistant coach. It was an adjustment but a great learning curve for me. Working with Randy was great. I left for Buffalo to be an assistant coach and in the summer of 2004 came back to interview for the Moose head coaching job. It was the year of the lockout and Randy had been in Washington but decided to come back to Winnipeg and he got the job. The next summer, Randy had left to be the coach in Anaheim and I interviewed but they hired Alain (Vigneault). At the end of the process, I was told I wouldn't have to interview the next time. The job would be mine. And that's what happened. Alain moved up to Vancouver and I became head coach of the Moose."


2010: Hired to be fired

"I had some good years with the Moose and we lost in the Calder Cup final in my third year there. I began to feel I was ready to coach in the NHL and Columbus called and I interviewed and got the job. It didn't work out. The timing for the organization wasn't right. But I learned so much. You never want to get fired. But everyone does. It's how you handle it. Right after I got fired, Alain was coaching in Vancouver and he called and asked me to go and scout some teams they might meet in the playoffs. It was great for me. It got me back on the horse. Alain was always open to input when I was coaching the Moose and we were the farm team for Vancouver. He always included me and wanted my opinion."

 

2013: The Big Apple

"I was offered a few assistant coaching jobs in the NHL but I felt I needed to get back behind the bench and call my own shots. So when Vancouver offered me the job with their affiliate in Chicago, it was the right fit. Then last summer there were a few more opportunities, including in New York with Alain after he was fired by the Canucks and hired by the Rangers. It was an Original Six team, I felt they could win right away when I looked at the roster and I knew I liked working with Alain. It all came together."

 

2014: Seeing Stanley

"There's been a lot of sleepless nights. Everyone always talks about being a kid and raising that pretend Stanley Cup trophy whether it's in the street playing road hockey, in backyard rinks or in your basement, for me, as a professional, I've been waiting 33 years for the chance to compete for it. It finally hits you when that buzzer goes. Montreal had their goalie out for over two minutes and it seemed like it took an hour. It was such an overwhelming feeling walking into the dressing room and into the coaches' office. You finally have that chance."

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 3, 2014 D1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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