Thousands of people lined up outside the new arena for the rare opportunity to take a photo and touch Lord Stanley’s Cup during its first-ever appearance in Smithers on Tuesday.
For hours, Joe Watson, who won the Cup in 1973-74 and 1974-75 playing with the Broadstreet Bully Philadelphia Flyers, signed autographs and took photos with locals alongside the coveted Stanley Cup.
“There’s nothing like it in the world. It’s the most renowned trophy in the world and to have it up in Smithers, it’s very gratifying for myself and I think all the people,” said Watson. “People treasure the Cup, it’s like magic.”
And like magic it was for many parents who brought their children to see the chalice.
“It was awesome, they had a nice set up with all the memorabilia for him,” said Dave Aslin, who brought his 10-year-old daughter Kiera to see the Cup for the first time.
“It was unreal, and to have that here with her [my daughter], it was exciting.”
For Jim Britton, seeing the Cup up close and meeting Watson brought back fond childhood memories.
“When I was a kid, I played in the Watson’s hockey camp that they used to do [in Smithers] in the summer, so it was fun to see him again and it was fun to see my son enjoy it so much,” said Britton.
He said his nine-year-old son Miguel specifically asked the family to postpone a vacation for the chance to touch the Cup.
“We had a vacation planned, but he asked that they delay the vacation so he could see the Stanley Cup. That’s how important it was for him,” said Britton.
And it paid off.
Watson also let Miguel, a Flyers fan, try on his championship ring.
“It was cool,” said Miguel. “He’s a good hockey player.”
Some classes at Muheim Elementary School were allowed to skip class to see the chalice.
Seven-year-old Carson Brookes enjoyed seeing it in person, rather than on TV.
“I’ve seen it before on TV. I wondered how many teams have won it,” said Brookes.
According to Kent Delwisch, co-chair of the Smithers Celebrity Golf Tournament, between 1,500 to 2,000 people showed up for the event.
“I can’t believe how many people came out. We weren’t expecting these kinds of numbers,” said Delwisch, noting that Watson signed 1,100 autographs alone.
“It was really nice to see this many kids come out. I think every kid in Smithers is here today,” he laughed. “That’s what it’s all about. You see their eyes light up when they see the Cup. Kids are hugging it and kissing it. That’s something that all kids in Canada someday aspire to lift above their head.”
The Cup was in town to kick off this year’s Smithers Celebrity Golf Tournament in August. Proceeds from the tournament go towards the Bulkley Valley Health Care and Hospital Foundation.