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This article was published 20/7/2016 (2008 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINKLER — They came by the hundreds; infants, mothers, grandparents, young boys and girls in wide-eyed wonder.
After all, it’s not every day you get to see and touch the Stanley Cup.
Well, unless you’re from Winkler.
Then it’s an occurrence so common of late some locals say it’s almost like a family version of a yearbook photo.
That’s what happens when two Winkler products, Eric Fehr and Dustin Penner, have won three Stanley Cups in the last 10 years. Fehr, of course, captured his first championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins last month. Penner won his first in Anaheim with the Ducks in 2007, then another with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012.
Every time, the road with the Cup has led back to Winkler.
So when Fehr showed up with hockey’s holy grail at a Winkler mall Wednesday afternoon, it was no surprise the lineup to pose with the champion forward and Lord Stanley’s silver chalice snaked about 200 metres long, out the door and halfway around the building.
Take the Dymond family; parents Chris and Amanda, along with sons Ryder, 8, and Noah, 10, who all showed up in Penguins jerseys.
"We’re updating our family picture with the Cup," Amanda said.
They already have plans for the photo with Fehr; putting it in their living room next to the one they took with Penner, who was standing in the same mall, doing the same poses, in 2012.
Then there’s Matt Friesen, a longtime friend of Penner and Fehr, the latter a hockey phenom who left the community, located about 120 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, at the age of 16 to star with the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings, before eventually becoming a first-round pick of the Washington Capitals in 2003.
Friesen’s wife, Patti, gave birth to their first son, Jackson, just after Penner won the Cup with the Ducks in 2007. One of Jackson’s first photos, at age 14 days, was taken with the infant in the trophy’s bowl, along with older sister Hannah. A year later, when Winkler hosted CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada, the clan posed for photo No. 2.
Naturally, Friesen, the marketing director and play-by-play announcer for the Winkler Flyers MJHL club, was at the mall for the Stanley Cup photo hat trick.
"We like to be spoiled," Friesen said. "It’s just been a really good crop of hockey players who’ve come from this area. And guys who are community-minded and take the time to have their day with the Cup shared with the community."
Friesen should know. Even after breaking into the NHL with the Capitals, Fehr did a once-a-week radio show with Friesen called On Capital Hill with Eric Fehr. They talked about his experiences as a pro, on and off the ice. Just to keep the locals informed.
"It was (Fehr’s) idea," Friesen noted.
When the cup arrived at Richardson International Airport at 6 a.m. Wednesday — each member of the championships team gets one day with Stanley — Fehr knew exactly how he was going to spend the next 18 hours: with family, friends and supporters.
First, it was a ride from Winnipeg straight to Winkler with his brothers Matt and Justin, in a white stretch limo, no less. Then breakfast with the family. Then his father-in-law, Art Wiebe, took pictures of Fehr at the local arena where he played minor hockey — including shots of Eric, his wife, Rachel (also from Winkler) and young daughter Elle sipping out of the Cup with straws.
Then off to the mall for two straight hours of posing with fans.
"This city has done a lot for me," said the 30-year-old veteran, whose career has been hampered by back and shoulder surgeries that almost ended his career four years ago. "It’s very special."
Standing nearby was Fehr’s mother, Helen, who was still trying to digest the last few months for her son, and the scene Wednesday at the mall.
"It’s hard to believe," said Helen, who was in San Jose with husband Frank the night the Penguins defeated the Sharks to capture the Cup in June. "You have to pinch yourself and say, ‘Is this really happening? Is it really true?’
"He’s a hometown boy," she added. "He’s always been supported by Winkler and he’s always supported Winkler. He feels he can pay back. This day is very special for him."
But it was long from over. Fehr had until midnight, after all, and there was little time to waste. Fehr was off to the golf course for a round with some buddies, then supper and celebration at the family farm Wednesday night.
"I’m going out," he said, as he left the mall, "and I’m taking the Cup with me, that’s all I know."
With that, Fehr jumped behind the wheel of a white Escalade, while a friend carefully buckled the Cup into the passenger seat.
Eric and Stanley, on the road again.
And when it comes to Canada’s most treasured trophy, it seems all roads lead to Winkler.
Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.