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Jaywalking: Cup visit

I didn’t think I’d be late when I arrived at Collins-Moylan Arena in Greenfield at about 10:20 a.m. Sunday.

When I spoke to Franklin County Hockey Association president Sean Lavoine last week in advance of Sunday’s visit to the rink by Los Angeles Kings head trainer Chris Kingsley and the Stanley Cup that he helped his team win this season, Lavoine admitted that he didn’t know what kind of turnout to expect. Sure, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for area hockey fans to snug up to the Cup. But Lavoine was unsure what kind of crowd it would draw. If it was the Boston Bruins who won it, well, that would be different. But the Kings play mostly late games across the continent. Although my prediction to Lavoine was that people would come out in droves, I did not envision the kind of turnout that was already on hand when I pulled up nearly 45 minutes before the cup was scheduled to arrive.

The line began at the entrance to the rink and spanned the length of the sidewalk, going all the way back to the Shattuck Park fence. At the front of the line was Montague’s Glen Beauchesne, who had arrived at 8 a.m. folding chair in one hand, coffee and reading material in the other.

“I wanted to beat the rush,” he explained. “I figured I can be in and out of here by 11:05 a.m. and then I’m going to go mountain biking.”

Beauchesne, a B’s fan, said he grew up playing hockey at Collins-Moylan and seeing the Stanley Cup in Greenfield was too good to pass up.

The Cup was placed in the lobby of the rink and folks paid five bucks to get their picture taken with the Cup. All the money went to the Franklin County Hockey Association. It was a purely “giving back” moment for Kingsley, who played hockey as a kid in the FCHA.

Right behind Beauchesne, and in second position to see the Cup was the father-son duo of Scott and Adam Savoy, the latter a 12-year-old who plays in the FCHA. The two made the trip from Orange, united in their quest, even if they are not united in the teams they cheer for. Father Scott is a Blackhawks fan, while his son roots for the hated Red Wings. They arrived at 8:15 a.m.

I continued on in the line. Third in line, and also arriving just after 8 a.m., was Bob Harris and his son, 12-year-old Booie, both of New Salem. Bob is a Bruins fan, while his son was a Pittsburgh fan. Fourth in line was Kit Levesque and wife Shelley. They woke up early, played hookie from church, and made the 90-minute trip from Dalton.

It was a doubly exciting day for Kit Levesque, who was not only there to see the cup but was also wearing a Los Angeles Kings T-shirt, meaning he was also on hand to celebrate his team’s championship. The T-shirt was that of Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick, and Levesque explained how he came to be a fan of a team on the left coast. Levesque played goalie when he grew up and became a fan of former New York Islanders’ goalie Kelly Hrudey. When Hrudey was traded to Los Angeles in 1989, Levesque switched allegences and has been a Kings fan ever since.

Many of those in the crowd were Bruins fans, and many, including yours truly, were wearing the attire to prove it. That included the Yetter family from Greenfield, each decked out in Bruins gear. Seven-year-old Tyler Yetter, wearing his Adam McQuaid jersey, said he was excited to see the trophy.

“This is fun because this is going to be my first time ever seeing it,” he said.

Another youngster in the crowd was Kennan West, coincidentally from Westhampton, who was wearing a personalized Bruins jersey. Mother Kerry West said she surprised Kennan when he woke up in the morning, telling him that they were going to see the cup. Kennan may not have slept had he known beforehand. The excitement that Kennan West showed was shared by many other people in line, and the beauty of the event was that it appeared to be shared equally among young and old. People came from all over the place to take part in the event, and that included many folks deked out in jerseys and shirts showing off their favorite teams.

Steve Cias was wearing a Philadelphia Flyers jersey in line and I had to stop to chat him up. Besides the Canadiens (and maybe Vancouver after the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals), there is not another more hated team among Bruins fans than the Broadstreet Bullies. So what the heck was a Flyers’ fan doing in New England? Cias moved to Ashfield after growing up in Barto, Pa., which is about an hour northwest of Philly. Cias joked that he felt obligated to come out.

“It’s the closest a Flyer fan has been to the Cup in a long time,” he said.

I moved on from there to someone wearing a New York Islanders jersey. That man was Bill Kilpatrick. The minute he spoke, I understood why he was sporting a jersey of a New York team. Kilpatrick, originally from Long Island, grew up not far from Nassau Coliseum, the home of the Islanders. Kilpatrick now lives in Gill but said even though he moved to Massachusetts, he will NEVER be a fan of teams from this state. He brought up the four cups won by the Islanders back in the 80s and I joked with him that he needs to hold onto those wins tightly, given how awful the franchise has been in the last two-plus decades. He countered with the 27 rings won by his baseball team, the Yankees. The conversation turned serious when I asked him about the Islanders moving to Brooklyn following this season.

“It’s sad,” he said solemnly.

There were also Buffalo Bills jersey, including a family of Buffalo Sabres fans who made the trip from North Adams.

As for the people who came the farthest distance, that honor likely went to Michelle Sullivan and her twins, Aiden and Brianna. The trio made the trip from Virginia, albeit just only to see the Cup. Sullivan was formerly Michelle Hammock, who grew up in Erving and graduated from Turners Falls High School. Hammock went on to marry Lt. Col. Andrew Sullivan, and his military career has moved the family around the land. For much of the children’s lives, they lived in Alaska, and it was there that the kids began playing hockey. The family moved to Virginia and is again on the move, next heading to Pennsylvania. The family was in town to visit Michelle’s family, including father Dan Hammock, who was with them Sunday. When Hammock heard the Cup was coming to town, he told his daughter and the family planned their WMass pilgrimage to coincide with the Cup visit.

The Cup did arrive right on time, complete with police escort. Kingsley came around the corner from Silver Street in the passenger seat of a BMW convertible driven by Dave “Pinky” Bernard. Kingsley had the Cup raised high overhead and received a loud cheer as he pulled up in front of the rink. He got out of the vehicle and was greeted by Charlemont’s Ray Willis, who was wearing his Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic T-shirt after finishing the race on Saturday. The 85-year-old was the oldest runner in that event.

He approached Kingsley to inform him that he used to work with Kingsley’s grandfather, and that he has a link to another NHL head trainer. Willis used to teach in North Adams and was current Boston Bruins’ trainer Don DelNegro’s phys-ed teacher when DelNegro was in seventh and eighth grade. DelNegro graduated from Westfield State University and has been the Bruins’ trainer for 21 years. Kingsley showed Willis DelNegro’s name on the Cup before taking it inside to begin the three-hour public photo session. The final people in line wound up passing through just before 2 p.m.

Later in the day, Kingsley brought the Cup to the Country Club of Greenfield for a private gathering, during which Kingsley took the popular Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS using the Cup, perhaps winning the award for best Ice Bucket Challenge ever.

It capped off a great day for Franklin County and a for youth hockey in the area — all made possible by Kingsley’s loyalty and generosity.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.

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