From atop a makeshift stage set up in the heart of George Street – and following a parade that had meandered from Bannerman Park through Water Street – Alex Newhook took in the special moment, as he grinned in near disbelief and evident pride at the exuberant rally that stood before him chanting, “Al-ex! Al-ex! Al-ex!”
Thousands from his province of Newfoundland and Labrador had gathered in support and celebration of his accomplishment with the Colorado Avalanche of winning the Stanley Cup this past June. That Monday, on Aug. 22, daily operations nearly ceased as everyone came to witness Newhook bring the Cup home to “The Rock” as just the third ever Newfoundlander to do so and the first, “Townie” of the province’s capital, St. John’s.
“I’m at a total loss for words,” Newhook said as he addressed the crowd speaking into a microphone. “The support has been unbelievable. I can’t say enough about it. I want to thank the city of St. John’s, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador for putting on such a great event and for letting me share this with all you guys. To all the kids that are here, it’s so great seeing so many young kids around whether you play hockey or not. I remember when I was your guys’ age seeing Michael Ryder (Boston, 2011) and Danny Cleary (Detroit, 2008) bringing the Cup home. I remember looking up to those guys when I was your age. I’m really happy that I can share this with you guys. Keep dreaming. Anything is possible.”
THE “NATIVE SON”
At just the tender age of 21 and during his rookie season in the NHL, Newhook etched his name into history as he became a Stanley Cup champion and local exemplar for generations to come back in Newfoundland and Labrador.
From a young age, it was apparent that Newhook had an unmatched drive. While other kids maybe showed up to trainings 15 minutes ahead of schedule, Newhook would harp on his mom Paula and dad Shawn if they arrived any later than an hour-and-a-half before practice.
Newhook began his hockey career playing for the local Avalon Celtics Minor Hockey Association. At age 14, Newhook left St. John’s in pursuit of greater competition to further his hockey career. He joined St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ontario and played there from 2015-17. Following his first stint away from home, Newhook’s next step in his hockey career took him to the opposite coast of Canada and 4,4023 miles away from home in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Victoria Grizzlies where he would play from 2017-19.
During his time with the Grizzlies, Newhook’s career took off as he dominated the league as the league-leader in scoring with 102 points (38G, 64A) in 53 games. He went on to win the Vern Dye Memorial Award as the league’s most valuable player and was also named the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) most valuable player. Following his impressive season, Newhook was selected 16th overall by the Avalanche in the 2019 NHL Draft and became the first Newfoundlander drafted since his idol, Cleary, was 13th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1997.
After committing to Boston College to play NCAA Division l hockey while in Victoria, Newhook made the jump to the college level and this time, only 1,229 miles from St. John’s in 2019 and spent two seasons there before turning pro in 2021 and earning a roster spot with the Avalanche that fall.
“He’s been very focused even when he was younger and playing minor hockey,” Shawn said of his son. “To see him go from each level, major midget, junior, then to college, to make it to the pros and to get drafted, I’m not shocked I’ll put it that way because he’s put in a lot of time and effort and is very focused. But I’ve seen lots of guys who were more skilled than Alex coming up through and at all the tournaments over the years, but I haven’t seen any guys who are more skilled and have the same mental fortitude and focus that [Alex has]. I think that’s a big part of it and is crucial for that level when you want to play at the elite level and be a pro athlete. You really have to have the full package.”
While no one projected that Newhook would go on to win the ultimate prize in just his first season in the NHL, it wasn’t surprising – especially those closest to him – that he would solidify a spot amongst the star-studded Colorado squad that was poised for a deep run going into the 2021-22 season. Newhook has always been one to make the most of his opportunities and execute his exhausting work ethic.
“He just knew very early, he had a dream and he set out to achieve it,” Paula recalled while tearing up at her son’s journey and accomplishments. “The fact that he went and could do that is emotional, it’s exciting, I couldn’t be happier for him really. It’s just so many emotions and to see him be so happy, it’s just so fulfilling. All of the sacrifices have been worth it.”
A DAY FOR THE BOOKS
Aug. 22 had been circled on the calendar – and felt like “Christmas morning” for the Newhooks – from the moment Newhook and his family found out that would be his designated day with the Stanley Cup. And while every player spends their day differently and incorporating creative ways to share the Cup with family, friends, former teammates and their community, Newhook knew his situation was unique. He fully grasped the magnitude of what bringing the Stanley Cup back to the heart of Newfoundland and Labrador for just the third time in history would mean for the proud community of the Maritime province.
So, with diligent preparation and assistance from the local government, Newhook scheduled his, “epic” day down to the minute and ensured there was an emphasis in sharing Lord Stanley as much as possible.
“When we were thinking about the day, I really wanted to prioritize what was most important to me,” Newhook said. “I think we had a good mix of everything throughout the day. It was really busy, but you only have one day so I was just trying to make the most of it.
“There’s never been someone to win it from St. John’s,” Newhook continued. “St. John’s is a pretty big city from Newfoundland and Labrador. Seeing the guys win it before me, I remember seeing it when I was younger. I remember seeing it wherever they were from. I just dreamt about having this day come true. Now that it’s here, I really wanted to prioritize sharing it with the city.”
Newhook first picked up the Cup from the airport the previous day and shared it with a small crowd in attendance and made a stop at the local Ronald McDonald house before returning it for the evening.
His official day with the Cup began at 7 a.m. on that Monday. The Cup arrived at Newhook’s childhood home which showcased a hallway covered in photos and newspaper clippings of him and his younger sister Abby’s hockey careers. Newhook, his family and his childhood best friend Colin Mckinnon then took the Cup to Vanier Elementary and MacDonald Drive Junior High for photos.
Following the quick stops, the group traveled over to the national historic site of Signal Hill, which overlooks the city of St. John’s and was the location of the final battle of the Seven Years’ War in North America between the French and British in 1762. It’s also the spot where the first transatlantic wireless transmission was received from Poldhu in Cornwall, England by Guglielmo Marconi on on Dec. 12, 1901.
There atop Signal Hill and in front of Cabot Tower, the gothic three-story square stone structure that stands atop the highest point of the hill, Newhook and his family posed with the Cup for iconic pictures. The prized silver trophy in hand glistened in the forefront of the stunning backdrop. Behind them were hills of emerald covered in strands of honey-colored grass shifting with the sea breeze and clashing with the spanning horizon of vibrant blue hues emitted from the sparkling Atlantic Ocean.
While the early day was picturesque and filled with sunshine, the temperature was brisk for that of late August. After posing with some locals – who were wrapping up a hike and were at the right place at the right time to meet Lord Stanley – the Newhooks raced into their car and onto the next step to Newhook’s hometown training gym, Powers Conditioning.
Training buddies and close friends all gathered at the gym, owned by Chris Power who was a hockey player himself, to see Newhook and the Cup. The gym is where Newhook and Abby have both trained since their youth and now in their respective offseasons, it’s also where Paula is now a personal trainer in addition to her full-time job as a social worker, as she balances both of those and training for her 14th marathon – after receiving the news that she’d been accepted to the London 2023 Marathon a week before Newhook’s day with the Cup.
Next in the schedule was a bucket list item for Newhook as he, Abby and the Stanley Cup took a ride in a helicopter. The route they took directed them over the city , to Signal Hill and Cape Spear, which is the easternmost point in Canada and North America (excluding Greenland).
Following the helicopter ride, Newhook brought the Cup to the Confederation Building where he met with Andrew Furey, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. Premier Furey and Newhook met in his office, which directly faces Signal Hill from afar. After sharing a few private moments, Newhook and Premier Furey took the Cup outside of the building where a crowd awaited. The short ceremony was mc’d by local star Seth Hyde, who is just 13 and garnered national attention for his play-by-play hockey commentary as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic not allowing spectators in the stands for games.
Newhook took a brief break before jumping right back into the day and taking some photos at the Fluvarium – meaning, “windows on a stream” and, is a public center for environmental education – with some members of local charities including the REAL Program, which Newhook and his family helped raise over $11,000 towards placing children in sport, recreation, art and leadership programs.
After that, Newhook departed for Bannerman Park for his parade. Prior to the parade, he and Abby met a group of boys and girls of all ages, who play for his youth hockey club, the Avalon Celtics, out on a baseball field. Newhook showed off the Stanley Cup, answered a few questions and signed some signatures, as did Abby.
During the parade, the Newhooks rode atop a float that was constructed by some fathers of Newhook’s childhood friends. It cleverly mirrored the walls of a hockey rink. Inside the float, was a hockey net and it featured posters of the Cup on the exterior that said, “CHAMPIONS.” Thousands gathered to watch Newhook hoist the Cup, many of which were donning white tee-shirts with a light blue humpback whale on them that stated in red ink, “COME HOME” with “NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR” written below in a smaller font.
The parade concluded with speeches and the announcement that Mary Brown’s Ice Centre, which is the home of the Newfoundland Growlers – the ECHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs – will have a mural of Newhook added to its exterior. Prior to Newhook’s closing words, the ceremony featured sentiment from Premier Furey on behalf of the province, “You’ve shown everyone here in Newfoundland how to not just be a great hockey player and a champion, but how to be a great guy,” Furey said. “That’s what it means to be Newfoundlander and Labradoran, so thank you so much.
“As we came out of the pandemic, you gave us something to unite around,” Furey continued. “You gave us something to hope for, something to cheer for. No matter who we normally cheer for, there wasn’t a person in this province who wasn’t cheering for you on June 26. The whole province was behind you. I hope you felt that. Thank you so much.”
UNITED BY LORD STANLEY
Heading into the late afternoon and after a whirlwind of events all focused on sharing the Cup with the community, Newhook spent the remainder of his day with close family and friends.
Before dinner time at his Nan’s house, Newhook had planned a special surprise for his closest friends and former teammates. Newhook separated his pals into Team Newfoundland and Labrador vs. Team Mainland for a game of floor hockey at his youth hockey rink, with the Stanley Cup on the line. While Team Mainland featured some NHL-caliber talent in prospects like Minnesota’s Matt Boldy and Los Angeles’ Jack Hughes, Team Newfoundland and Labrador pulled out a convincing 3-0 win with Newhook as the game’s solo referee.
Per tradition, the Stanley Cup was presented by the Keepers of the Cup, and Newhook hoisted it as both teams joined together in celebration.
“It was one of the events during the day that I was looking forward to the most,” Newhook said. “It was obviously great to see everyone, but to share those moments with my closest friends, have them play a game and for Newfoundland to be victorious – as always – was a great event.”
AB-BY! AB-BY! AB-BY!
A theme throughout the day was the outpour of support not just for Newhook himself, but for Abby as, “Ab-by!” chants would break out almost instantly after any mention of Newhook.
The 19 year old wrapped up her freshman season at Boston College and had just completed an 11-day Hockey Canada’s National Women’s Program selection camp from Aug. 3-14 – that solidified roster spots for the eventual gold-medal winning Hockey Canada Women’s Squad at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in Denmark – prior to her brother’s day with the Cup. While Abby didn’t make the roster, she’s become an immediate inspiration for young girls especially in her home province as an exciting up-and-comer with real potential to someday join the Hockey Canada Women’s National Team.
For Abby, her own trajectory and introduction into the sport was first inspired by her brother.
“Growing up, he set the path for me not with his words, but just the way he was on the ice,” Abby said. “And how he trained in the gym. I looked up to him a lot in that way. Just in any situation, he’s always been there to hype me up, give me advice and give me feedback in my games. He always just helps me to be the best player possible.”
Despite winning the Stanley Cup and ultimately sharing the spotlight with his younger sister, Newhook was thrilled about the joint support.
“It’s really cool to see the support for Abby too,” Newhook said. “It’s a big day for me, but to have her around this and to share the day with her, she’s been a huge part of my life and will be forever. Just to have her around, hear the chants and see all of the support for her makes me proud.”
For Paula, nothing means more than the bond that her two children share and their unwavering support towards one another and their respective hockey careers. Despite her and Shawn not being able to be in attendance in Tampa for Game 6 that sealed the Stanley Cup Championship for Newhook and the Avalanche, she expressed how much it meant to watch her two children embrace on the ice postgame.
“Obviously, seeing your son win the Stanley Cup brings you to tears,” Paula said. “It’s incredible. But that picture they sent me of Abby jumping into Alex’s arms on the ice, that just meant the world. You couldn’t ask for a better bond between your two kids. Just the way they push each other but are always there for each other. The support today has been amazing and for Abby too, it’s so special.”
WHEN IN NEWFOUNDLAND
As much as the day was about sharing the Stanley Cup with the city of St. John’s and the proud province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Cup itself received the utmost Newfoundland hospitality.
For dinner, Newhook ate specialty salted cod fish and chips from the Cup. Afterwards, Shawn scripted an, “Ode to #18” and song sheets were passed out to everyone in attendance for a full sing-along. During the evening which was spent at O’Reilly’s Bar, Newhook hosted Shanneyganock, a traditional band from Newfoundland and Labrador, on stage. The band sang their iconic song and hit among the province, “The Islander.”
The Irish-rock song had Newhook and everyone in the bar jamming along and singing proudly to the lyrics, including the spirited chorus:
I’m a Newfoundlander born and bred
And I’ll be one ’til I die
I’m proud to be an Islander
And here’s the reason why
I’m free as the wind
And the waves that wash the sand
There’s no place I would rather be
Then here in Newfoundland
For those experiencing their first time in Newfoundland and Labrador, there were screech – a type of rum – shots being taken and even some who underwent the full, “screeched-in” experience, which includes taking a shot of screech, reciting a short statement, and then kissing a cod fish.
As the clock closed in on midnight, Newhook escorted the Cup up to the balcony of the bar where he, Abby and some close friends spent 45 minutes just to themselves taking in the glory and history of the esteemed trophy and each other’s company.
The day lived up to its “epic” expectations; it was a culmination of Newhook’s past and present as he relished in the unwavering support he’s received and celebrated his biggest accomplishment to-date with those closest to him. It was a day that occurs so rarely to such a passionate community, but one that captured the magic of the Stanley Cup and its ability to unite and awe people with its allure and leave a lasting impact in their individual lives.
“It’s totally surreal,” Newhook said. “Just seeing all of my buddies, especially my family and being around the Cup. Just realizing it’s actually home now, it’s a different feeling and I can’t really put words to it.”
This news is republished from another source. You can check the original article here