CALAHOO, Alta. — The tiny Alberta hamlet of Calahoo, population 85, ballooned to more than 2,000 Tuesday when their favourite son, St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube, brought the Stanley Cup in for a visit.
Fans lined up for hours inside and outside the Calahoo arena, north of Edmonton, and cheered when Berube walked in to the sounds of the Blues’ victory song “Gloria” and hoisted the cup over his head.
With the arena’s ice removed for the season, Berube stood on a podium on the concrete playing surface and posed for hours with fans as they had their photos taken with the NHL’s top trophy.
Many wore St. Louis Blues jerseys and T-shirts, but there was a healthy smattering of orange Edmonton Oiler sweaters as well.
“When you’re playing as a player and when you’re coaching you’re always thinking about if you win what would you do with your day with the cup,” Berube told reporters.
“I’ve always dreamt of bringing it back here and letting people enjoy it, my family and friends — and that’s exactly what happened.
“Everybody I grew up with lives here. My family’s here still. They did everything for me as a kid to get me where I am today.”
Berube took over as interim coach of the struggling Blues last November and led them to a Stanley Cup victory last month, the first ever in franchise history.
He has since been rewarded with a three-year contract.
Berube’s parents, Roger and Ramona, were on hand for the festivities and remember Craig as a rink rat from the get-go.
“Him and his friends would always come down at night after everyone had finished hockey — and they skated,” said Ramona.
Ramona said they were home watching on TV as Berube’s Blues beat the Boston Bruins in Game 7.
They could have won it in St. Louis in Game 6, but were trounced 5-1.
“I mean that sixth game, that was just terrible. I thought that was it for them, but that seventh game was just unreal,” said Ramona.
Fans began lining up at the Calahoo arena around 6:30 a.m., three hours before the photo session began with the Cup, and afterward lined the main street of Calahoo as Berube and the Cup, in the back of a blue pickup, inched past ahead of a fire truck in an impromptu parade.
Audrey Granger, who has known Craig from his childhood, was on hand hoping to get a photo signed. She recalled that in early January, the Blues were statistically the worst team in the NHL.
“He brought this team right from the bottom right to the top,” said Granger.
“It’s such a good feeling.”
Berube, 53, was a bruising winger for 17 years in the NHL for five different teams, mainly the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers, before retiring in 2004 and entering the coaching ranks.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press