Published August 15, 2011
VANCOUVER -- Milan Lucic always knew that if he was lucky enough to get the chance he would spend his day with the Stanley Cup celebrating in his hometown with his large family and closest friends. The only catch was that to make it happen, the Boston Bruins' powerful winger couldn't let himself pour salt on the millions of open wounds in and around Vancouver.
"I didn't want to rub it in," Lucic told NHL.com before his festivities began Sunday. "I grew up a Canucks fan. I know how it is."
The local boy turned enemy champion made what seemed like an impossible task look easy. His calculated and intelligent decisions about what to do with the Cup created a lifetime of memories out of a 14-hour day.
Everything was private, but built into a public setting. He shunned no one, but kept any potential distractions away from the celebration.
Better yet, he received a respectful reception from Vancouverites who happened to catch a glimpse of his dream-come-true day.
"You think about it. You grow up dreaming about it," Lucic said from atop Grouse Mountain, where he was capping his day with a private party. "On the other hand, I have a lot of respect for Vancouver and Vancouver Canuck fans. I love this city. I didn't want to gloat. I know just being here the last five weeks, and growing up here that they take their hockey real seriously. That's why I went about it the way I did, and I feel it was the right thing to do."
While denying reports from earlier in the week that claimed he had to scale back on his events out of fear for his and the Cup's security, Lucic said his day was mapped out exactly the way it was in his head halfway through the season, when he started daydreaming about having his own day with the Stanley Cup this summer.
"I think he said this would be the most special day of his life," Lucic's girlfriend, Brittany Carnegie, who arranged most of his day, told NHL.com and NHL Network.
The day started at Vancouver International Airport, where a nervous and sweaty Lucic waited with Carnegie by the baggage claim for the arrival of the Stanley Cup. He was so jittery that he was sweating through his white tee-shirt in an air conditioned area of the airport.
"Just waiting for it to come out of the case and for it to be yours -- and only yours -- for the day, leading up to that moment you get the jitters, the butterflies," Lucic said.
Soon after the Cup arrived, he hoisted it out of its case and carried it through the airport to Carnegie's car. He was already running late to his first stop at the Serbian Orthodox Church in his native East Vancouver, but Lucic smiled as he briskly walked toward the parking lot and allowed every passerby an opportunity to get a quick glance at the famous silver trophy.
People whispered to one another and raced for their cameras. There was not a single nasty word spoken.
"He loves Vancouver and the fans, to be honest, I know people have said they were a little rough and tough, but they've been absolutely amazing," Carnegie said. "He gets pats on the back every day. The fans here have been absolutely amazing."
At the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is located two miles from Lucic's family home, more than 350 people came out to meet the hometown hero and get a picture with the Stanley Cup.
"I wanted to do something a little public and I have a strong support group from my background being Serbian and former Yugoslavian, so I wanted to bring it there," Lucic said.
The crowd was controlled and organized by security, but it was almost as if the hired guards were unnecessary. Everybody was on their best behavior, even though most were Canucks fans.
"It's just everything to see the Cup here," said Wayne Topham, one of the lucky ones who got in to see Lucic and the Cup at the church. "It's too bad some Canucks fans don't appreciate it because he's a Vancouver guy. It's like, wake up Canucks fans. He's a Vancouver boy."
The day continued with a harbor cruise around Vancouver with nearly 200 of Lucic's closest friends and family members. Lucic arranged the cruise as an invite-only affair and said he limited it to those people who "he could call-up at any time," but he wanted to do the cruise because it would be his opportunity to show the Cup to Vancouver in a safe and sheltered setting.
From the aft to the bow to the top deck of the boat, Lucic held the Cup over his head. Smaller boats cruised up to the side and honked their horns. The people at the Granville Island Public Market applauded and cheered as Lucic's boat cruised by.
The celebration was felt throughout Vancouver. It was a success.
"They really have embraced Milan and the Stanley Cup," said ex-NHLer Darcy Rota, who coached Lucic when he played for the Junior A Coquitlam Express in 2004-05. "Many are Canucks fans on this boat, but they're happy for Milan. The fact that he could bring the Stanley Cup and celebrate with family and friends is very special to him, I know that."
Lucic finished his day with another private function at the top of Grouse Mountain. This one was especially important to him because it's where he and his teammates from the WHL's Vancouver Giants brought the Memorial Cup after they won it in 2007.
"I don't think in Vancouver you can get any higher than this, so it's a great experience," Lucic said. "I got to spend time up here with the Memorial Cup, and now I'm spending it four years later with the Stanley Cup. I wanted to relive that experience, and it's actually been better with the Stanley Cup."
Even though the event was private and limited to 120 people, Lucic still had to walk through a crowd of amazed onlookers who couldn't believe they were within an arm's length of the Stanley Cup. There were more mountain climbers stunned to see Lucic and the Cup when he carried it off the motorized gondola that brought him to the peak of the mountain.
The security team from the church was back, but again not totally necessary. Lucic gained a crowd as he walked through the cafeteria and fans were pressed against windows watching him speak to the media, but it was all under control.
"A lot of people have come up to me since I've been back in Vancouver and said regardless of who won, they would have been either happy for myself or for the city," Lucic said. "The people that have come up to me that were cheering for Vancouver were at least happy that I was able to win the Stanley Cup."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl