Leddy shares Stanley Cup with state

The ex-Gophers player won the trophy last month with Chicago.

Blackhawks defenseman and former Gopher hockey player Nick Leddy holds the Stanley Cup on July 12, 2013, at Mariucci Arena. Leddy brought the cup to various locations around the Twins Cities area during his two days with the trophy.

Emily Dunker

Blackhawks defenseman and former Gopher hockey player Nick Leddy holds the Stanley Cup on July 12, 2013, at Mariucci Arena. Leddy brought the cup to various locations around the Twins Cities area during his two days with the trophy.

Dane Mizutani

A sweltering summer’s afternoon looked eerily similar to a winter’s night Friday as fans packed the main lobby and lined the sidewalks of the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena. 

They awaited the arrival of a shy kid from Eden Prairie, Minn., alongside hockey’s biggest prize: the Stanley Cup.

Their wait ended when Nick Leddy, a former Gophers defenseman, arrived to the tune of “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis — the Chicago Blackhawks’ anthem.

The crowd went berserk.

After each season, in what has become tradition in the NHL, the most recent Stanley Cup champions take turns with the Cup for a day or two during the summer.

And this year, Leddy was the first player on the Chicago Blackhawks to get his time with the Cup.

Leddy shared it with thousands of Minnesotans at various locations around the Twin Cities last week.

It’s been nearly a month since he first lifted the coveted trophy after the Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins to win the Cup, but Leddy said it was still surreal when it arrived at his house.

“I grew up and dreamed of this,” Leddy said.

Howie Borrow, the Keeper of the Cup, arrived at the Leddy household in Eden Prairie in the early afternoon Thursday.

Leddy said he had a reception with a small group of family and friends before he started his trek around the Twin Cities area.

“We just took some photos and relaxed with it,” he said. “It was awesome being able to share it with them because I wouldn’t be here without their support.”

Leddy then left his house in a stretch limo with his crew and the trophy beside him. They made a brief stop at the corporate offices of Shock Doctor, a sports equipment company and sponsor of Leddy, before reaching Maynard’s Restaurant in Excelsior, Minn.

Maynard’s, a popular summer hangout spot on Lake Minnetonka, was packed from the dining room to the docks.

Leddy hung out at the restaurant for a while and then stopped at Brit’s Pub and Seven Sushi Ultralounge and Skybar in downtown Minneapolis.

Eric Mueller, a  University of Minnesota student from Illinois and diehard Chicago Blackhawks fan, got a picture with Leddy and the Cup at Brit’s.

Mueller said the fact that Leddy took the Cup around the Twin Cities for the public to enjoy shows he has high character.

“I give the man mad props for that,” Mueller said. “He has the Cup for his day, and he used that to give back to the community he grew up in.”

Leddy said the first day of the tour was exhausting at times but said it was also rewarding to share the Cup with fans that care.

His second day of the tour was another full schedule with stops at the Eden Prairie Community Center and the University’s Amplatz Children’s Hospital and Mariucci Arena.

Leddy said it was special to bring the hardware back to Mariucci, where he played with the Gophers in the 2009-10 season.

But he said his favorite stop in the two-day stretch was at the children’s hospital.

“It was really emotional for me,” Leddy said. “I was so happy to be able to share that with those kids. It was a lot of fun.”

While Leddy was at the hospital, a collection of fans lined the sidewalks in front of Mariucci on campus.

Blake Delage was the first in line alongside his wife and son. They waited for three hours in the 90-degree heat to assure their spot in line.

Delage attended the event at the Eden Prairie Ice Arena in hopes of seeing the Cup earlier that day, but he never got a chance to snap a photo.

“We got [to Mariucci] at around 1,” he said. “We were the first ones in line, and we never left.”

Delage said attending the celebration “means more to me than meeting the president of the United States.”

Leddy arrived a little after 4 p.m. and posed for pictures with the Cup and a small group of people on the ice before meeting the fans in the lobby of Mariucci.

Gophers junior forward Kyle Rau was backstage at the event amid the fans.

Rau played with Leddy at Eden Prairie High School and said it was strange to see his former high school teammate with the Cup. He added he’s proud Leddy brought the title back to Mariucci to share it with the fans.

“He could have taken it anywhere, but he’s not forgetting where he came from,” Rau said.

Leddy posed for pictures with hundreds of fans for about 45 minutes, flashing his own sheepish smile amid the chaos.

And just like that, his time with the trophy was over.

As the stretch limo dropped off Leddy, his family and friends back in Eden Prairie, Borrow took the Cup to the next Blackhawks player.

“It went by fast, but I’m just glad I got to have my day with it,” Leddy said. “It definitely gives me some motivation to do it again.”