Sweet sippin'

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Classy kid.

Eric Staal didn't have to wait long to sip champagne from the Stanley Cup, but his celebration after the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 at the RBC Center last night included a toast for many teammates who have.

The 21-year-old sophomore from Thunder Bay, Ont., had to wait just two seasons and play 25 playoff games - all in this post-season - to get his sweet sip, and he was thrilled to share it with vets such as captain Rod Brind'Amour, defenceman Glen Wesley, Doug Weight and Mark Recchi.

THINKING ABOUT THEM

"You think about those guys," Staal said of first-time Cup winners like Brind'Amour, Wesley and Weight - as well as Recchi, who captured a Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991.

"They've played very long careers and want the chance to win the Stanley Cup.

"They've been so good for us all year. All of the veteran players on this team have really paid a price."

Wesley, 37, finally got his taste with 1,311 regular-season and 170 playoff games on his resume. Only seven players in NHL history - Dale Hunter, Phil Housley, Mike Gartner, Norm Ullman, Adam Oates, Scott Mellanby and Doug Mohns - toiled longer without winning a Cup.

Brind'Amour, 35, has played 1,187 regular- season games and 141 more in the playoffs in pursuit of the silverware.

Weight, 35, a former Oiler captain, has 982 games and 93 more in the post-season in the books. Recchi, 38, who has played 1,256 regular-season games and 135 more in the playoffs, waited 15 years for an encore.

LEARNING THE ROPES

"Wesley, Brind'Amour, Weight, those guys," said Staal, asked about which veterans he's learned the ropes from.

"For me, it's more what they do. It's their work ethic, the attitude they bring to every game and practice.

"It helps the younger guys coming in. When you lead by example, it makes a big difference to the team."

Staal was just six years old when Recchi celebrated his first Cup win with Pittsburgh.

"For all the younger guys to have this opportunity so early in our career, you want to take advantage of it and cherish this moment," he said.


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