Stanley Cup's visit to Roseau a big hit
ROSEAU, Minn. - At 6-foot-4, 257 pounds, Dustin Byfuglien can handle almost anything.
But with the Stanley Cup on his left, his family on his right and about 2,000 Roseau hockey fans in front of him, it was too much.
"I want to thank you all for coming out," Byfuglien said, his voice cracking.
He then put down the microphone, turned away from the audience in Memorial Arena and let the tears flow. He tried for a few moments to compose himself, then gave up and continued with tears in his eyes.
"This means a lot to me," he said. "I worked hard to bring it back to you. I hope you guys enjoy it."
Many in the crowd also teared up during the day's most touching moment. The others started chanting "Big Buff" at their hometown hero, who helped the Chicago Blackhawks win hockey's biggest prize in June.
This was Big Buff's big day with the Cup. Every player on the championship team gets at least one. But Byfuglien made it clear that Sunday was about much more than just him.
It was about the town of Roseau, too.
It had never seen the 117-year-old trophy until the late Sunday morning, when a charter flight from Chicago touched down in Roseau County with Cup aboard. Byfuglien was at the airport to pick it up.
A couple of hours later, a fire truck led a parade down Main Avenue. The streets were lined on both sides for five blocks, about half of the crowd wearing Byfuglien jerseys or shirts.
Byfuglien sat in a red convertible next to the Cup, holding it above his head at times for pictures. A police car trailed the convertible.
The parade route led to Memorial Arena, where the crowd filed in and listened to an intro from Roseau mayor Jeff Pelowski, who declared it "Dustin Byfuglien Week."
Then, the lights turned off, the speakers blared "Chelsea Dagger" (the Blackhawks' goal song), the Zamboni door opened and Byfuglien walked out with the Cup over his head.
Minutes later, he gave his teary address.
"I knew the family was going to love this," his mother, Cheryl, said. "I knew the crowd and the city would love it. I just didn't know it would be this emotional.
"I'm glad we did this. We knew we would. We always knew we would bring this home."
The only other Roseau product to win the Cup was Neal Broten in 1995. He celebrated at his ranch in Wisconsin, though.
"Being the first guy to do it means a lot," Byfuglien said. "This wasn't just for me, it was more for everyone else, too. Being in front of your family and friends and bringing it back into your hometown. . . it just means so much."
Byfuglien was supposed to sign autographs and take pictures with the Cup until 5 p.m., but he stayed until 6, making sure that everyone got their photo with the Cup.
Nick Kostel, a Blackhawks fan from Chicago, waited more than three hours to get a picture and an autograph next to his newly inked Blackhawks tattoo on his side.
"This was very cool," said Kostel, whose girlfriend is from East Grand Forks. "They really did a nice job with it."
After Memorial Arena cleared out, Byfuglien carried the Cup out to his Maserati and drove to the Byfuglien ranch on Highway 11. Hundreds of guests were there by the time the Cup showed up. There were concessions available, as well as many, many kegs.
Perhaps the NHL knew what kind of party to expect in Roseau. The league sent not one, but two keepers of the Cup to keep watch on it.
"This has been great," said Howie Borrow, one of the Cup's keepers. "It's a little more intimate than the other celebrations with Dustin knowing a lot of the people in the town. You can see his family and friends really support him."
Byfuglien plans to spend some more intimate time with the Cup today - possibly taking it fishing if the weather cooperates - before it flies off to Madison on Tuesday morning to be with Adam Burish.
"We didn't know what to expect today," Byfuglien said. "Everything has gone so well."