Cup coming home

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Stanley Cup is coming to Edmonton. But it'll just be visiting. It won't be staying the summer.

"July 22." Cam Ward named the date he intends to ask for possession of the Cup in the Heartland of Hockey.

"That's my wedding day in Sherwood Park. It would probably make a nice centrepiece."

The Conn Smythe Trophy, on the other hand, you might be able to go over and visit anytime.

Ward put the finishing touch on winning both when he stopped Fernando Pisani with an unbelievable leg save with 3:40 to go in the third period of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. That saved the game the Carolina Hurricanes won 3-1 on an empty-net goal that followed.

"It's a dream come true," said the 22-year-old rookie who ended up as the ultimate storybook story of this Stanley Cup season.

"And I don't feel bad about my hometown team at all. I know my friends and family were a little bit torn being hardcore Oiler fans, but they stayed loyal to me and supported me all along and I'm excited to go back and share it with them."

FOURTH GOALIE TO WIN SMYTHE

Ward is just the fourth rookie to capture the Conn Smythe Trophy, joining goaltenders Ken Dryden (Montreal, 1971), Patrick Roy (Montreal, 1986) and Ron Hextall (Philadelphia, 1987). Ward, 22, is also the second-youngest to capture the award behind Roy, who won the first of his three Conn Smythe Trophies as a 20-year-old.

"Obviously it's a huge honour to win the award. I feel you could give it to anybody on this hockey team. But to tell you the truth, right now, it seems totally irrelevant. The trophy that matters most is the Stanley Cup. And our guys deserve it.

"You have to give Edmonton credit. They didn't give up and they threw everything at us. When you look at their first goal it was a rebound on my part, a goal that I wanted to take back. It was the same situation the second time around and I was fortunate enough to make the save," he said of going against Fernando Pisani of the Oilers, who scored his 14th then was robbed on what would have been his 15th.

While Ward collected the Conn Smythe from Gary Bettman before the NHL commissioner watched Rod Brind'Amour before he could even present it to him, it took a long wait before he took his turn to carry the Cup.

PASS THE CUP

It went from Brind'Amour to Red Deer's Glen Wesley, a veteran of 1,480 games without carrying the Cup until last night. Then Bret Hedican, former Oiler stick boy Ray Whitney, ex-Oiler Doug Weight, back-to-back Cup champion Cory Stillman and nine more 'Canes before Ward took his turn.

Ward became the 14th goaltender to win the trophy. In addition to Roy's three, Bernie Parent won two. Roger Crozier, Ken Dryden, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Glenn Hall, Ron Hextall, Bill Ranford, Billy Smith and Mike Vernon the other goalies to win the trophy since its inception in 1965.

Ward finished the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 15-8 win-loss record, a 2.14 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.

The graduate of Brent Sutter's Red Deer Rebels, Ward earned wins in each of his first seven NHL post-season stars. Replacing Martin Gerber with the Hurricanes down 2-0 to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, he won four straight to close the series then the first three as Carolina took a 3-0 lead on New Jersey in the second round.

His win in Game 2 against New Jersey made him the first rookie goaltender in history to win his first six playoff games. His win in Game 3 of the series tied him with Tiny Thompson as the only NHL netminder of any status to win his first seven post-season starts.

"You look at it today and I'd like to say I'm a better goaltender than I was at the beginning of the season. But you can't do it without your teammates. They showed it tonight. They stepped up and, personally for myself, I feel good.

"People say that it's your rookie season and chances are it will come again. But you never know. You can't predict the future. You have to take care of the present. To take advantage of that for Glen Wesley, Rod Brind'Amour and all those veteran guys like Ray Whitney and Doug Weight, well, I couldn't be happier for them."


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