EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — More than 1,000 people crammed into the Eden Prairie Community Center hockey rink and several hundred more waited in line. They all came here to see one thing.
Well, and Nick Leddy.
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It was Leddy, the former Eden Prairie standout turned Golden Gopher turned Chicago Blackhawks defenseman, who piled out of the black Escalade limousine holding arguably the most famous trophy in all of sports: Lord Stanley’s Cup. The 22-year-old Leddy won the Cup as a member of the Blackhawks this year, playing 23 games in the postseason before hoisting the Cup over his head following Chicago’s Game 6 win over Boston.
During his 24 hours with the Stanley Cup, Leddy brought it to several restaurants in the Twin Cities on Thursday night. Friday, he wanted to make sure to bring the trophy back to the place he learned how to play the game.
“It’s awesome. Obviously today was a great showing, and I appreciate it so much,” Leddy said. “This is why I came back here. They proved every reason why I should be coming back here.”
Leddy helped Eden Prairie win a state championship in 2009 and went on to play for his hometown Golden Gophers at the University of Minnesota. During his freshman season from 2009-10, Leddy played 30 games and scored 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists). During the season, Leddy — a former first-round pick by the Minnesota Wild — was traded to the Blackhawks.
After just one year at the U of M, Leddy turned pro and debuted with Chicago the following season. Three years into his NHL career, Leddy now has his name on the sport’s ultimate prize.
“I wanted to win a state tournament, but I don’t think I could fathom that — let alone this thing,” Leddy said as he held the Cup. “It’s been a whirlwind, these first three years in the NHL. Hopefully it gets better and better.”
Friday’s festivities at Eden Prairie included Leddy pulling up to the community center and parading the Cup past the hundreds of fans that wouldn’t fit into the hockey rink. Many snapped pictures, while others ran alongside Leddy as he carried the Cup toward the building’s back entrance.
Once inside, Eden Prairie mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens introduced Leddy — and the Stanley Cup — to the packed crowd of 1,027. Met with cheers by his hometown fans, Leddy then took the time to share his fondest memories of being an Eagle.
He also chose to wear his white No. 3 Eden Prairie jersey, adorned with the captain’s “C,” which is the sweater he wore when the Eagles beat Moorehead for the state title in 2009 when he was also named Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey.
“It was completely Nick’s idea,” said his dad, Mike, of the Eden Prairie jersey. “We had a party at my house yesterday. That’s when the Cup arrived. We hung up the jerseys. He wanted that jersey and got it from the high school. … We had it hanging up on the wall in the garage, along with his other jerseys. He says, ‘You know what? I want to wear that jersey tomorrow.’ I thought it was a phenomenal idea.”
After the stop in his hometown, Leddy took the Cup to the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. He also had a stop scheduled for Mariucci Arena, home of the Golden Gophers, where Leddy skated from 2009-10.
Leddy is in the prime of his NHL career. Shortly after winning the Stanley Cup, the Eden Prairie native signed a two-year contract with Chicago. He’ll return to a Blackhawks team filled with plenty of star power as they begin their quest for the Cup once again.
Life has certainly good for the 22-year-old Leddy. On Friday, he let fans share in on the fun.
“This is just giving back a little bit,” Leddy said. “Hopefully I can keep doing it.”