More than a dozen Griffins alumni have taken a variety of routes to get their names etched on hockey’s most prestigious trophy.
Story by Mark Newman / Photo by Getty Images
Kevyn Adams was an alternate captain for the Carolina Hurricanes when his team won the Stanley Cup in 2006, and the thrill of capturing hockey’s most treasured trophy brought back memories of all the things that had happened in his career to get him to that moment.
Ten years earlier, he was a member of the inaugural Griffins team. It was his first season, too, having signed his first pro contract with Grand Rapids after failing to come to terms with the Boston Bruins, who had selected him in the first round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.
Adams said he will never forget a piece of advice that he was given by the Griffins’ first head coach, Dave Allison.
“He told me, ‘Kevyn, you’re going to play in the NHL and you’re going to play in the NHL for a long time, but the thing that you’re going to have to really do is to enjoy the moment.’ I worked hard and was always so focused that he reminded me that I needed to sometimes just enjoy the moment, enjoy the ride, and everything else would take care of itself. And I never forgot that.
“I tried to do that my entire career, just soak it up and enjoy the moment. Obviously, winning the Stanley Cup is what you dream about from the time that you’re able to put skates on your feet. To be able to fulfill my dream and win the Stanley Cup was like reaching the top of the mountain. I feel very fortunate. It’s definitely the highlight of my career.”
The 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs marked Adams’ second trip to the Finals. He was a member of the 2002 Carolina team that beat the Detroit Red Wings in Game 1 but scored only four goals in the next four games to drop the series in five games.
Reaching the Finals against the Edmonton Oilers in 2006, Adams was willing to pay any price to ensure a different outcome. When he broke his wrist early in Game 7, Adams ignored the pain so that he would have the pleasure of celebrating Carolina’s first Cup.
“It happened on the second shift of Game 7,” Adams recalled. “We were shorthanded and I dropped to block a shot by (Chris) Pronger and the puck shattered my wrist. I remember getting back to the bench, thinking, ‘This hurts. A lot.’
“I knew something was wrong. But I also remember thinking, ‘This is Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. You’ve worked your whole life for this. You’ll find a way to play.’
“Quite honestly, it was difficult, but I was able to get through the game. I was so caught up in the moment, I don’t think I fully realized how badly the wrist was shattered until the wee hours of the morning. Everyone is beat up in different ways in the playoffs, (but) it’s just the price that you pay.”
Adams was only the second ex-Griffins player ever to win the Stanley Cup, achieving the feat two years after Dmitry Afanasenkov became the first Griffins alumnus to officially qualify to have his name inscribed on the Cup.
Afanasenkov, who played with the Griffins during the 2001-02 season, won the Stanley Cup in 2004 during his first full NHL campaign with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He played in all 23 playoff games, including Game 7s in the conference finals and Stanley Cup Finals.
Most of the 15 former Griffins who have celebrated Stanley Cup championships did so with the 2008 Detroit Red Wings. In addition to Niklas Kronwall, other Griffins alumni on the 2008 team included Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm, Jiri Hudler, Tomas Kopecky, Brett Lebda and Derek Meech.
Helm was an NHL rookie who earned the distinction that season of appearing in more playoff games (18) than regular season contests (7), while Filppula’s resume later added trips to the Finals with both Detroit in 2009 and Tampa Bay in 2015.
Kopecky, though, is the only former player to hoist two Stanley Cups following his time in Grand Rapids, having helped the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks bring the Stanley Cup back to the Windy City for the first time in 49 years. Kopecky scored four goals in 17 playoff contests, including the game-winner in the Blackhawks’ 6-5 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Darren McCarty was also a member of the 2008 Red Wings team, which marked his fourth Stanley Cup title. The accomplishment capped off a memorable comeback season for McCarty, who had rekindled his career during 19 games in Grand Rapids, a stay that included his unforgettable hat trick.
Chris Osgood, who memorably replaced Dominik Hasek in goal during Game 4 of the opening round and went on to backstop the Red Wings for the remainder of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, also had a Griffins history. Osgood appeared in three games for Grand Rapids in 2005-06 during a conditioning assignment.
Chris Kelly, who played 31 games for the Griffins during 2001-02, the last season of the Griffins’ affiliation with the Ottawa Senators, was instrumental in helping the 2011 Boston Bruins win their first Cup in 39 years.
Kelly went to Beantown in a midseason trade and played all 25 games in the postseason for the Bruins, who had to win three Game 7s to reach their goal. Kelly scored five goals during the playoffs, including one during an 8-1 rout in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Vancouver Canucks, which turned around the series for Boston after two 1-goal losses.
Sheldon Brookbank is the most recent Griffins alumnus to get his name on the Cup. The former Grand Rapids defenseman (2001-03) was a member of the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks. He played in 26 games with the Blackhawks during the lockout-shortened regular season then made his lone playoff appearance during the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Kings.
All told, the names of former Griffins have been added to the Cup in five of the last eight years and in seven of the last 11 seasons.
Adams said that no matter the route a player takes to getting his name etched on the Stanley Cup, it is an experience that no one can ever forget.
“I had a lot of great experiences over the years and was able to do a lot of different things in the game of hockey, and winning the Stanley Cup is at the top of the list – no question,” he said.