10/18/2013 12:03 AM
Jeff Hoggan on Mount Hope
The Calder Cup passed from player to player as it journeyed across North America this summer.
Story by Mark Newman
In 1994, the New York Rangers started a tradition that enables each member of the Stanley Cup-winning team to retain the trophy for a day.
No such tradition officially exists for the Calder Cup, the trophy awarded to the champions of the American Hockey League and named for Frank Calder, who served as the first president of the National Hockey League from 1917 to 1943.
When Jeff Hoggan won the Calder Cup as a member of the Houston Aeros in 2003, his time with the second-oldest actively awarded professional ice hockey playoff trophy was limited. "You didn't really get to savor it," he said. "You just got ready for the next year."
So when Grand Rapids won its first Calder Cup, Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill felt it was time for a new tradition.
"Blash thought it would be great if a few guys could spend some time with it," said Hoggan, who served as captain of the 2012-13 championship team. "So we had a great summer, even if it was short."
Logistics and timing prevented the Calder Cup from traveling overseas, but the trophy made its way across North America, going from Marysville, Mich., the home of Chad Billins, to Whittier, Calif., a city about 12 miles southeast of Los Angeles, where Mitch Callahan spends his summers.
The journey actually started in Syracuse, N.Y., where the Griffins defeated the Crunch 5-2 to win Game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals. The team celebrated first on the ice, then later in the dressing room before heading home on Redbird III, the private plane of the Detroit Red Wings.
The Griffins held a championship rally at Van Andel Arena the following night, June 19, which kicked off a number of community appearances by the trophy.
The West Michigan Whitecaps, for example, honored the Griffins' first title in their 17-year history during a pre-game ceremony on June 27.
Blashill, along with East Grand Rapids native Luke Glendening and radio broadcaster Bob Kaser, showed up at Fifth Third Ballpark with the Calder Cup in tow. All three threw out first pitches before the game, then Blashill and Gledening signed autographs before the coach made a guest appearance in the radio booth with Whitecaps broadcaster Ben Chiswick for one inning.
After making the rounds in Grand Rapids, the Cup spent the better part of six weeks crisscrossing several Canadian provinces and a number of states.
It was given a triumphant welcome in British Columbia, where Hoggan took the trophy to the top of Mount Hope, where he had proposed to his wife.
"The big dream was always going to be to take the Stanley Cup up there, but that's not going to happen now," Hoggan said. "There's a lookout above my hometown, but it's a pretty good hike, so I thought I could get a helicopter, fly it up there, and I would do the hike.
"Then the helicopter people told me they didn't fly to the lookout, they flew to the top, above the snow, 6,000 feet up. I said, 'Oh, I'm not hiking that. Can I jump in with it?'"
Hoggan planned to take his wife, Chevonne, and children, Hunter and Cam, but the kids were apprehensive about flying in a helicopter, so he took his brothers, Aaron and Mark, instead. "It was awesome," Hoggan said. "We took some photos and one of them ended up on the front page of the newspaper."
Later, that afternoon, Hoggan assembled a bunch of his buddies to play street hockey in the city park.
"Growing up, we played street hockey every day at my house, so I promised the boys that if we won the Calder Cup, I'd bring it back and we'd play street hockey for it," Hoggan said.
"We took over the town's tennis courts and we had four teams of six guys each, all playing street hockey in front of the mayor who came down and watched. Landon (Ferraro) came down from the city (Vancouver) and joined us, as did some friends from Chilliwack. We had a fun game, then had a barbecue at my place."
Hoggan said it felt special to share the Calder Cup with his family. "My kids had come to Games 4 and 5 in Grand Rapids, but not Syracuse, so they were pretty pumped to see the trophy," he said. "They were excited because they got to drink orange juice out of it."
Ferraro took the trophy to Spanish Banks, a series of beaches in Vancouver along the shores of English Bay.
"I went with my brother, mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa, and we got some great shots with the city view and the mountains behind," said Ferraro, whose father, Ray, played 18 seasons in the NHL and never got close to winning the Stanley Cup. "It was a lot of fun sharing it with everyone."
Ferraro also brought the Cup to the Burnaby Winter Club, where he had played hockey growing up. "We took it there for a couple of hours, and there were a couple of kids’ camps going on, so that was fun. Then we went to my dad's place and had a barbecue with friends and family."
He enjoyed his time with the Cup but was more than happy to send it to its next destination. "By the end of the day, I was ready to ship it to California," he said. "Carrying it around all day is a lot of work. That thing is not light."
In Southern California, the cup was delivered to Mitch Callahan, who thought the Calder Cup could use some sun. "I was going to take it to the beach and have a bonfire, but I figured nobody in L.A. would know what it is," he said. "So instead I had a private pool party with a bunch of family and friends."
Hoggan got a second look at the Cup on its way to Manitoba. Living in Omaha, the largest city in the Cornhusker State, Hoggan thought it would be appropriate to get a photo of the Cup in the cornfields – an appropriate allusion to baseball's Field Of Dreams (which was set in neighboring Iowa).
"In Omaha, I organized a game on ice with a bunch of old-school guys, plus hometown players like Jed Ortmeyer, who plays for San Antonio, and Warren Peters, who played in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season," Hoggan said.
Brennan Evans took the Calder Cup golfing when it showed up in Edmonton, Alberta. "I had it atop the golfcart for 18 holes," he said. "It didn't help my game. I played brutal."
His original plan was to take the Cup out on the water. "We had the boat and the lake, but I felt like the repercussions of dropping it in the lake would outweigh the pictures," he said. "I'd have felt pretty bad if I had dunked the trophy in the lake because it's so heavy."
Instead, Evans held a big party at his house with family and friends. He took a few pictures of his newborn daughter, Vera, in the Cup.
Family and friends also celebrated with Nathan Paetsch when he welcomed the Cup to Spencerport, N.Y. "We got a big tent and a bounce house for the kids, and it was a lot of fun," he said.
Although his family had come to Syracuse to see him win the Cup, Paetsch said it was "extremely special" to be able to celebrate the championship with them at home. His son, Kellen, was especially excited. "He got up for a week after, saying, 'Mommy, mommy, daddy won the Cup," Paetsch said.
Kellen, who will be three in December, was a bit dismayed when his dad sent the Cup on its way. "He asked, 'Daddy, where's your big, big trophy?’ He expected me to keep it the whole time.
"So now we have to win it again this year or my son will be very disappointed."
Griffins equipment manager Brad Thompson held a Sunday afternoon picnic at Johnson Park for family and friends in late August. Some 300 people, including WOOD-TV weekend anchor Larry Figurski, showed up for hot dogs and brats.
"It was pretty laidback – wear your T-shirt and shorts and just hang out," Thompson said. "My dad came up from Indiana and I caught up with a lot of buddies from high school."
Two weeks later, Thompson reunited with another high school buddy, Jim Heintzelman, a former Griffins assistant equipment manager who is now with the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The Wyoming Park High School graduates brought hockey's most hallowed hardware to Osgood Brewing in Grandville.
"I don't now if both Cups had ever been in the same place at the same time because of two buddies who had gone to high school together," Thompson said, "but we always told each other it was something we were going to do it if ever happened.
"The whole experience was surreal. I remember looking back at the Cups and all the people, and it was just hard to believe."