One of Hamilton's most storied hockey haunts played host to the game's most prestigious prize on Saturday morning.
Ray Emery, the Cayuga-raised backup goalie for the 2013 Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks, brought the trophy to Kenesky Sports, the north-end hockey store with which he's had a long relationship.
"We have a real connection," said Emery, who racked up an impressive 17-1 record for Chicago during the regular season.
The 30-year-old net minder said he first tried out the goalie position at a hockey camp run by the store. Later on, he would work for the shop, hosting goaltender clinics of his own.
"I lived on and off with one of the owners and really have a lot of history with the store," said Emery. "So it's really exciting to bring the cup back and bring it here for the first time."
'Ray called us. He said, 'Joel, I'm bringing the cup.' '—Joel Hulsman, co-owner, Kenesky Sports
That a goaltender would bring the Stanley Cup to Kenesky Sports is appropriate. Emil "Pops" Kenesky, the store's late founder, is credited with inventing the modern goalie pad. And the shop has run elite goaltender training camps for nearly three decades.
"You couldn't ask for a better prize from a better person," said Kenesky co-owner Joel Hulsman. "But this store, with its history, deserves it."
It was Emery's idea to bring the cup to the north end shop, said Hulsman, who described Saturday as a "huge day."
"Ray called us. He said, 'Joel, I'm bringing the cup.' "
'Icing on the cake'
Fans lined up around the block from the Barton Street store on Saturday morning, waiting to get a glimpse of the Stanley Cup.
Mike Waller brought his teenage son Eric to Kenesky Sports to see the trophy, and to get their picture taken with the locally-raised hockey star.
"It's just part of being Canadian," said the elder Waller. "Every child grows up playing street hockey and dreams of winning that Stanley Cup. This is the closest we're going to get to it, in that sense."
A former goaltender himself, Waller said seeing the Stanley Cup in-person at Kenesky Sports, where he'd purchased equipment over the years, was "the icing on the cake."
After his engagement at Kenesky's, Emery would then eat lunch at a restaurant in Hess Village, before making other public appearances in the afternoon. He said he would be celebrating with friends and family at a private party in the evening.
"Playing away all the time, I don't get a lot of chance to spend time with them," Emery said. "But this year, to share something that special with them, and to see that they enjoy it just as much as I do, it's a pretty special day."
Emery returning to the Flyers
A Blackhawk for only two seasons, Emery recently signed a one-year, $1.65-million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, the organization to which he belonged during the 2009-2010 NHL season.
Emery said he "[didn't] think the Flyers would blame him" for touring with the Stanley Cup and posing with gleeful Chicago fans only weeks after the Blackhawks' finals victory over the upstart Boston Bruins.
"It's one last day to remember that accomplishment, especially to share it with family with friends. And then I'm a Flyer."