Basking in the glory

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

So what do you do with the day off and the Stanley Cup in your possession, in southern California?

Head for the sand, of course, to catch a few rays, reflected off the shiny surface of the most famous trophy in sports.

"Right now I'm in the process of getting guys together -- we're going to try and get down to the beach and take a picture by the beach with the Cup," Dustin Penner, reached at his home in Newport Beach, Calif., was saying yesterday. "That will be a nice little keepsake."

And not the only one Winkler's new Stanley Cup champion will have from Wednesday night's victory over Ottawa. To hear Penner tell it, it's been a whirlwind celebration since the Ducks claimed hockey's ultimate prize.

"It hasn't quit, yet," he said, sounding surprisingly alert. "I managed to close my eyes for about an hour. There were so many things you wanted to do. I was taking pictures with everybody I could with the Cup, with Teemu (Selanne), and my parents are doing the same thing. It's one of those nights that you never want it to end."

If this is beginning to sound repetitive, that's because it is.

Penner's story has been the stuff of fantasy ever since he was called up for last year's playoffs and helped the Ducks reach the conference final.

Giving new meaning to the term "late-bloomer," the big winger has proven that even someone cut from a tier-2 junior team doesn't have to give up the dream.

There he was after the final seconds had ticked away Wednesday, locked in an embrace with teammate Francois Beauchemin in a moment every hockey-playing Canadian kid imagines, but few experience.

"Being on the ice when it actually happened was unbelievable," Penner said. "And then seeing Scott (Niedermayer) with his brother Rob and their mom taking a picture with the Cup. It's hard to understand as a first-year player what it means to be playing so long and winning the Cup."

Just as the Niedermayers and the Selannes got family portraits with Stanley, the Penners got one, too.

Penner's official line from these playoffs: three goals, including two game-winners, five assists and a plus-four rating. That's one less point than he registered in last year's playoffs, but you don't measure this experience with numbers.

Young players like Penner, 24, just had to look at the tears streaming down Selanne's face after the game to realize what it all means.

"It hasn't sunk in at all," he said. "It's tough to fully understand right now. But all us young guys will take satisfaction out of being on the team that helped those guys reach their goal. As we get older we'll fully understand what it means."

Maybe Penner learned, too, what the relentless preachings of head coach Randy Carlyle were all about.

As he put together a 29-goal season, his first full year in the NHL, Penner was constantly reminded of what he had to do better. The former Manitoba Moose boss has always been stingy with the compliment.

But you get the impression the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder will take every barb Carlyle can send his way, if this is how it turns out.

"It all becomes worth it now -- every weigh-in that he made me do and every soda pop he didn't let me have," Penner cracked.

Turns out it was the perfect fit: the crusty coach and the rough-around-the-edges player whose pro success has come so quickly. It was, after all, just two years ago Penner was coming off a 10-goal season in the AHL.

Now he's a rookie heading to the beach with the Stanley Cup.

You wonder what he can do for an encore.

"The only thing better than one Stanley Cup is two," Penner said. "So that's what we'll do."


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