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Williams, Stanley Cup thrill crowd

By JEFF GARD, Northumberland Today


Hundreds of supporters from not just Cobourg, but also the rest of Northumberland County and beyond, welcomed Justin Williams of the Los Angeles Kings home Saturday to celebrate his third Stanley Cup victory and first Conn Smythe Trophy win.

Led by the Concert Band of Cobourg and Cobourg Legion Pipes and Drums, the parade left the Cobourg Public Library around noon and continued down King Street – with enthusiastic greeters lining both sides – to Church Street and into Victoria Park where people had already formed a long line to have their picture taken with the National Hockey League trophies.

Some of the Williams family members, including his parents Craig and Denise, were driven during the parade in the Cobourg Fire Department's antique fire truck by firefighter Chris Post, a close friend of Justin Williams.

Minor hockey players from around the county – there were numerous jerseys from the Cobourg Community Hockey League, Port Hope Minor Hockey, West Northumberland Girls Hockey Association and Baltimore Minor Hockey – marched in the parade and surrounded the float which carried Williams, with his wife Kelly, son Jaxon and daughter Jade, as well as the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy (awarded to the most valuable player of the playoffs) and Clarence S. Campbell Bowl (the Western Conference championship trophy) and two representatives from the Hockey Hall of Fame, including former Cobourg resident Mike Bolt, who is a Keeper of the Cup.

Williams hoisted the Stanley Cup above his head a few times along the parade route, drawing big cheers each time.

In Victoria Park, Williams was welcomed by Cobourg Mayor Gil Brocanier, who said the community was proud of his accomplishments while noting the Conn Smythe Trophy win and how it puts him into some elite company of former winners. The mention of the Conn Smythe drew huge applause from the large crowd. Previous winners include the likes of Jean Beliveau, Bobby Orr, Guy Lafleur, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy and even Williams's current Los Angeles teammate Jonathan Quick, who was named MVP when the Kings won the Cup in 2012.

Brocanier unveiled a sign that will be placed at both entrances into town from Highway 401 that reads “Welcome to Cobourg, Home of Stanley Cup champions Justin Williams & Steve Smith.”

Williams had some thank-yous to offer, starting with his family.

You don't get here without the support of your family and they have been from day one my biggest supporters and I've gotten a few more here along the way,” he remarked from the bandshell stage. “It's awesome to win a Stanley Cup, but it's even more special when you have people you love to celebrate it with.”

Williams also thanked the Town of Cobourg for its part in pulling the event together in such short order as well as Rhonda Cunningham who spearheaded the organization of the celebration, all of the children who walked in the parade with him, Brocanier for his kind words and the police and fire departments.

Everyone who made this special for me and special for everyone involved, thanks very much,” Williams said before offering some inspiring words to the youth in attendance.

There's really no limit to how hard you can work in your life, whether it be in the classroom, on the field or in a hockey rink. You're only limited by your mind and what you think you can accomplish. You can do anything with your life and no one has the right to tell you that you can't, even though they will – trust me, people will tell you that you can't.

I've been told 'no' many times in my life,” he continued, “been cut from several teams when I was younger, but I persevered because I had the attitude and a commitment I made to myself to keep aspiring to be the best player that I can be, the best person that I can be, the best dad that I can be, the best husband that I can be and the best son that I can be. Sometimes the word 'no' or someone telling you that you can't do something is exactly what you need to hear to get to the next level. Prove them wrong and believe in yourself, but you have to make a goal for yourself and when you meet that make another one because a goal without a plan is simply a wish.”

A question-and-answer session, moderated by Joel Scott, was another highlight of the celebration in Victoria Park. The first question came from a young voice in the crowd who asked, “How are you so good at playing hockey?”

Practice, practice, practice,” Williams responded. “Practice doesn't always make perfect, but it does make you better. That's what I try to do and have a positive attitude and be the best you can be.”

Another child asked Williams what he would be doing if he wasn't playing hockey.

I love golf,” Williams joked, after having to think for a few moments.

He went on to say that he likely would have gone back to school if a hockey career didn't pan out.

I assume I would have been in sports in some type of capacity,” he said.

Williams was also asked how many different positions he has played in his hockey career.

I started out as a centreman and then when I made it to the OHL (with the Plymouth Whalers) they moved me to right wing and that's what I still love to play right now,” he said. “I tried goalie when I was younger, but I think I let in about 12 goals.”

Asked how many members of the Kings were injured during the playoff run, Williams clarified the question.

Injured and hurt are two different things. If you're hurt you can still play, if you're injured you can't,” he said. “You play 82 games and then you play what seems like seven games every series, you're going to have bumps and bruises. Quite a few guys are hurt – I'm not going to divulge details – but at that point in the season everybody is just trying to get that last little bit out of the tank that they can and help your team, regardless if you play three minutes or 30 minutes.”

Among other questions, Williams was also asked how he chose the number 14. He said it was more a case of the number choosing him. When he joined the Phildelphia Flyers after being drafted, they gave him two options – 14 or 19.

I was just happy they gave me a number,” he added.

The long line for pictures with the Stanley Cup never really dwindled and by the end of the celebration not everyone had made it to the trophies. Williams, before leaving, walked the Cup along the line so that those could still at least get a close look.

It's a very humbling experience,” Williams told Northumberland Today in a brief interview before leaving Victoria Park. “I certainly don't feel like a role model, but you have to embrace that title with what I've won and what I've done and how kids look up to me. It's been an unbelievable experience and the turnout was pretty special – it's something I will remember forever.”

Having the chance to spend a day with the trophy is one of the best parts about winning the Stanley Cup, he said.

I've said many times, you win the Stanley Cup for yourself, your teammates, your family and your fans – everyone who has cheered you on your whole life – and you're able to celebrate the Stanley Cup with them,” Williams said. “That's the unique thing about winning the Stanley Cup trophy is you get it for the day and you get to touch a lot of people's lives.”

Brad Bull and his nine-year-old son Dane – a Los Angeles Kings fan – came from Toronto on Saturday after hearing about the event from friends in Port Hope.

It was the first time for both father and son to see the Stanley Cup up close, which Dane described as “awesome.”

Getting to see Justin Williams and the Stanley Cup and all the trophies (was exciting),” Dane also said.

Being from such a large city, they enjoyed the more small-town community feel of Saturday's celebration.

The number of people down main street there for the parade was incredible,” Brad Bull said. “There were people lined on both sides and the amount of kids with their hockey jerseys on, it was amazing to see... just incredible.”

Williams was generous with his time after arriving in Peterborough by plane earlier that morning. He signed autographs when possible, even though there was no expectation to do so.

Also, before the parade, he visited the Grafton home of nine-year-old cancer patient Grace Bowen.

Later in the day, he met privately with some Port Hope Minor Hockey players, who were showing him the newly re-named Justin Williams Trophy, which will be presented annually to the Most Dedicated Player at the Novice level.

Back at Victoria Park, Williams's mother Denise was thrilled as she watched all of the excitement.

It's overwhelming. We had no idea it would be like this,” she said. “Just want to thank everyone for coming out and being a part of our day. It's to be shared with everybody and the community has always been supportive.”

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