*This is the first feature of a special multi-part LAKings.com content series featuring various members of the Kings organization as the Stanley Cup makes its way around the world throughout the summer.*
On Friday, July 11, 2014, the Stanley Cup arrived at the airport in Vienna, Austria, wherefrom it was then airlifted via helicopter to the neighboring country of Slovakia. Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa, and Tomas Kopecky are all Slovaks for whom Lord Stanley has made recent trips to Slovakia. But on this day, a new member was being added to the list of Slovakian Stanley Cup Champions.
Marian Gaborik won his first Stanley Cup when the Los Angeles Kings were crowned Champions on June 13, 2014, an achievement he wasn’t sure he’d ever reach.
Less than four months earlier, the 32-year old right wing was playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets, his second team in two seasons, and an injury limited him to only 22 games of the season just prior to joining the Kings.
“Things weren’t going the way I wanted them to in Columbus,” Gaborik explained. “When I got traded I was very excited to be a part of the Kings and a part of a winning culture.”
Gaborik was traded to the Kings on March 5, for Matt Frattin and two draft picks and scored 16 points in 19 games to close out the regular season. After only appearing in the post-season five times in his first 12 NHL seasons, Gaborik was impressive during the Kings 2014 playoff run, scoring timely goals and leading the team with 14 goals in the playoffs, coming only one shy of Wayne Gretzky’s record of 15 goals during a single post-season. Gaborik capped off his stellar playoff performance with 22 points and a Stanley Cup victory against his former team, the New York Rangers.
The newest member of the LA Kings was the third King to hoist the Cup this year, taking it from fellow first-timer Robyn Regehr, who received it from captain Dustin Brown.
The helicopter carrying the Cup landed in the city of Trencin in a soccer field adjacent to both the ice rink that Gaborik owns and the elementary school he attended. A throng of media greeted the trophy and Gaborik’s long-awaited pick-up.
“That’s when it kind of sunk in that I really won the Cup. Sometimes I still pinch myself if it’s true, but when I got [the Cup], it was amazing,” Gaborik admitted.
The first order of business was a press conference, held at Gaborik’s rink, after which a couple of hours were allotted for close friends to have their photos taken with the Cup.
The President of Slovakia, Andrej Kiska, came for a visit and a chat with the new Stanley Cup Champ, and was able to pose for photos with Gaborik and the Cup, including one of both men holding the Cup together above their heads.
Gaborik then allowed the general public to view and photograph the Cup for a few hours in the same soccer field, where a stage was set up and Gaborik took some time to address the crowd and chat with fans. An estimated 2,000 people were in attendance, despite the fact that it was raining.
The next stop was the Pohoda Music Festival, also taking place in the city of Trencin. Approximately 30,000 fans gave Gaborik and his new trophy a rousing welcome, as Gaborik held the Cup on a stage for all to see. He then took the Cup on to a fire truck, which paraded him around the festival so that more people were able to have a closer look.
“The festival was unbelievable – to lift it up in front of 30,000 people, that was crazy,” said Gaborik.
From the festival, the Cup went to Trencin Castle, where Gaborik hosted a big party for friends and family, which included video footage projected onto the castle using 3D mapping technique. The guest list did include Hossa and Kopecky, while vacation plans caused Chara to miss the party that continued well into the morning.
“It was a little hectic with all the people around, but after the festival and after the public stuff it was great to have a party of my own with friends,” Gaborik shared.
The next day was much more low-key, as Gaborik relaxed with the Cup at home in the morning and then took it to a friend’s place for a small family brunch, where he was visited by some childhood neighbors. He was also able to take the Cup back to the top of Trencin Castle, where he posed as a drone flew overhead to capture photos.
During the late afternoon, the silver chalice left Slovakia for Slovenia and a visit with Gaborik’s linemate, Anze Kopitar.
Gaborik admitted that, being one of the first to host the Cup, there wasn’t much notice or time to plan the day’s events, which is ironic considering he’d waited so long to win it. But to him, his time with the Cup was perfect, something he’s hoping to experience again in the future.
“Hopefully we can repeat it,” Gaborik stated.
“You get a taste of that and it’s just more motivation and you want to do it again.”
Join the conversation on Twitter with the NHL, LA Kings and the Cup Keepers for their summer with Stanley by using the hashtag #StanleyCup
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LA Kings PR: @LAKingsPR
Cup Keepers: @KeeperOfTheCup
Deborah Lew: @by_DeborahLew
For photos of the Kings’ summer with Stanley, view the Hockey Hall of Fame’s ‘Stanley Cup Journal’ CLICK HERE
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