Patrick Sharp’s eyes are probably still seeing spots.
The Chicago Blackhawks forward’s face will be all over Facebook tonight, as hundreds of fans share their moment with Sharp and the Stanley Cup, which he shared with his hometown on Saturday, the start of his day with the NHL’s championship trophy.
Corey Wesley and his two children arrived at Fort William Gardens at 4:30 a.m. and were first in line to greet Sharp. He did it for his kids, he said.
“They watched every game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I wanted to get them that desire for them to want to win the Cup themselves and maybe one day they’ll be here sharing it with the city,” Wesley said.
“They’ve been pumped since last week to see the Cup, since it was announced.”
Wesley brought his sons last year to see Jordan Staal, and hopes to be back again next year.
“We cheer for any team that someone from Thunder Bay is from.”
Son Ethan Bell had his own reasons for waiting six-and-a-half hours in line for a picture with Sharp and the trophy.
“Because I like the Stanley Cup,” he said. “It’s great.”
Richard Parisee wore a Sharp jersey with the words Stanley Cup champions emblazoned on the back, and said he was almost at a loss for words, watching the crowd snake its way through the Gardens and down Vickers Street past Fort William Curling Club.
“This is just fabulous. This is just great for Thunder Bay. It’s nice to see Sharp bringing the Cup home. It’s just fabulous,” Parisee said.
Other fans showed up in all manner of Hawks jerseys, including those of Tony Esposito, Jeremy Roenick and Bobby Hull. One fan even arrived with an old Chris Chelios sweater, with Sharp’s name taped over the former longtime captain’s.
Sharp, who spent an extra half an hour in the spotlight, ensuring everyone who wanted a picture with Lord Stanley’s Mug got one, has a busy day planned, with stops scheduled for Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, the Boys and Girls Club and a few surprises along the way.
Each player who wins the Cup is granted a day with it that summer, a tradition begun 15 years ago. On Saturday night Sharp will end his tenure hosting a private party for family and friends before the Cup is shipped off to Winnipeg on Sunday where teammate Jonathan Toews will receive it.
Sharp was surrounded by family and lifelong friends on Saturday afternoon, there to help ensure the public portion of the day went smoothly.
Among his entourage was his older brother Chris, who now lives in Calgary.
The elder Sharp called it an unbelievable day, one his brother has dreamed about since he was a little boy.
“He’s always wanted to make it into the NHL. He’s proud to be from Thunder Bay, and to bring it back here and share it with all of us is incredible,” Chris Sharp said.
“I remember when he got traded to Chicago and I think they only had 6,000 or 7,000 people in the stands and they were kind of at the bottom of the league. They slowly built it up, the organization did a lot of changes.”
Former Thunder Bay Flyers teammate Murray Magill was also on hand, snapping photos and sharing a few laughs.
Magill, who went on to star for four seasons with the Lakehead Thunderwolves after his Flyers days, said seeing his lifelong friend with the Cup gave him goose bumps.
“This just means so much. I know how much it means to him and his family and how proud they are. It’s basically just the culmination of all the hard work he’s put in since he was a kid. He really makes me proud,” Magill said.
Sharp, who never failed to smile as his legions of fans approached, said he was blown away by the size of the crowd that greeted him Saturday.
“I think it means a lot. Hopefully it means a lot to the people who showed up to get their picture taken. I think the last time I was in Fort William Gardens, besides watching LU play a few times, I was on this ice with the Thunder Bay Flyers. It means a lot to be back here in the rink, in the same dressing room and got to share it with the people of Thunder Bay who supported me so much over the years.”