He may have touched the Stanley Cup on four other occasions – it has even spent some time in his bed – but the most recent encounter with the iconic trophy tops the list for Jay Brown.
The Antigonish native and his nephew, Nolan, were amongst the first to see the Cup and greet Al MacInnis, who brought it to Port Hood Aug. 3.
“It is always awesome, but this is special,” Brown said, with a wide smile.
He not only had another experience with hockey’s Holy Grail but also met his favourite player – the Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman known for, as his fellow Cape Bretoner Danny Gallivan would, probably, have described it – a ‘cannonading’ slap shot.
Brown, like hundreds who flocked to the Al MacInnis Sports Centre, wore clothes emblazoned with the logo of the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, the organization MacInnis works for on in an executive role.
While others, like Nolan, showed off the colours of the Calgary Flames, the team MacInnis hoisted the Cup with as a player in 1989.
Like countless others, Brown went home with an autograph from MacInnis, his signature now sweeping across a hockey card from his days with the Flames.
“It is awesome,” Brody MacPherson said of his first-ever encounter with the championship hardware, which also included an autograph.
The Antigonish Minor Hockey Association player has close ties to Port Hood; his mother, Sylvia (MacLean), grew up with the MacInnis family in the Inverness County community.
MacInnis, who started his NHL career with the Flames, was traded to the Blues in 1994, where he wrapped up his playing days. Since his retirement in 2005, the 56-year-old has served as a senior advisor with St. Louis.
“It is an unbelievable day for me,” he told reporters during a quick break from signing autographs and posing for photos.
His visit with the Cup to Port Hood coincided with Chestico Days, the community’s annual come home festival. With an estimated 5,000 people lining the streets, MacInnis – joined by family and friends donning Blues’ colours – rode the final float in the traditional Saturday morning parade.
“A week after we won the Stanley Cup, we all had to request what day we wanted to have, and I thought there was no way I was ever going to get Aug. 3,” MacInnis said of his first choice, one that coincided with the 2019 parade.
“About a week later, I got a phone call from the guy who was doing the scheduling and he asked me if Aug. 3 was good for me and I said ‘absolutely.’”
When he won the championship 30 years ago, MacInnis spent his time with the Cup in Calgary. That summer, he was getting married – his wife, Jackie, is a native of the Stampede city – and his family and close friends were heading west for the celebration.
Although there was an ‘Al MacInnis Day’ in his hometown, which included a dinner, dance and Gallivan – as guest speaker, the Cup was not part of the celebration.
“I promised myself that if I ever had a chance to do it again as a player, or in any part of a hockey operation or franchise, I was going to bring it back,” MacInnis said.
Like he did on the ice, the 1989 Conn Smythe Trophy winner (playoff MVP) delivered, bringing the Cup to Port Hood for the first time.
“When you do an event like this, it’s more about the people, I wanted to share it with them and you want them to be part of it,” MacInnis said, when asked to describe his feelings about the parade and celebration.
“To see the incredible energy and the emotion of people looking at the Stanley Cup, waving, taking pictures and videos as I went by, it was amazing.”
Although he makes his home in St. Louis, the Inverness County community where he grew up and starting playing hockey is never far from his heart.
“I’ve never forgotten where I’ve come from,” MacInnis said.
He reflected on growing up in a large family, which included five brothers, two sisters and his parents; his father worked as a coal miner and in the refinery, while his mother was a teacher.
“My roots are here,” he added.