*This is the second 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.*
Mr. Toad and his wild ride ain’t got nothin’ on Tanner Pearson.
The 21-year-old from Kitchener, Ontario had a roller coaster season for the books, literally being called up and sent down from the LA Kings to their minor league affiliate, Manchester Monarchs, three times this season, before ultimately capping off what won’t even be considered his rookie season with a Stanley Cup.
Pearson began the season in Manchester, not having made the team directly out of training camp, but was recalled for the first time on November 13. He scored his first NHL goal the next night as the Kings faced the Islanders in New York.
“Being up and down all year kind of [stunk],” admitted Pearson. “Each time you get sent down you have to work that much harder to get back up.”
He was sent down, called up, and scored twice more during the regular season before carving a niche for himself in the playoffs on a line with Tyler Toffoli – who had accumulated just as many frequent flyer miles as Pearson in the same amount of time – and Jeff Carter.
‘That 70s Line’ as they were dubbed in reference to the television show, and due to all jersey numbers being in the 70s, became one of the Kings’ most effective lines during the playoffs, and Pearson’s speed and quick hands played an integral part.
“It doesn’t matter how many points you put on the board, there’s a lot more to winning, especially in how we play hockey and doing the little things right,” stated Pearson, who totaled 12 points this post-season.
Exactly seven months after his first recall of the season, Pearson became a Stanley Cup Champion as the Kings defeated the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“It’s not the way you imagine winning it, with this kind of year, but to be a part of it, to experience it and to be able to hoist [the Cup] was pretty special,” Pearson said.
At 10 A.M. on Sunday, July 20, representatives from the Hockey Hall of Fame showed up at Pearson’s home in Kitchener with the Stanley Cup in tow.
“It wasn’t really clicking in, but Friday night it finally kicked in that the Stanley Cup was coming to my place this week,” Pearson recalled.
First on Pearson’s agenda was taking the Cup to the Kitchener Rangers, the junior team in his hometown, where he knows some of the team staff and allowed them to take photos with the most famous trophy in sports. The local gym where Pearson works out during the summer was the next stop on the tour, and the Cup was greeted there by Pearson’s trainer and his wife, along with some other gym members who were able to snag photos with their guests.
Around noon, Pearson met up with about 20 of his childhood friends at a local arena where the group played a game of ball hockey with the Stanley Cup on the line, reminiscent of their younger days. There, Pearson allowed them to drink from the silver chalice.
A public event was planned at City Hall for a couple hours in the afternoon, where approximately 2,000 people showed up to welcome Pearson and Lord Stanley. Fans were able to take photos with the Cup as Pearson signed autographs.
“When I first put it on the table, there were a bunch of kids off to the right-hand side of the tent that I was in and just seeing their faces, in awe of the Stanley Cup, I think that was pretty cool to see,” Pearson shared.
To finish off a spectacular day, Pearson brought the Cup back to his home where he threw a party for family, friends, and people who influenced his hockey career. Among the 200 guests in attendance were the coach and general manager of the Barrie Colts, Pearson’s junior team, as well as Scott Sabourin and Andy Andreoff, who were both Black Aces on the Kings roster during the playoffs.
“I think growing up, all you dream about is winning it, not really knowing that you get a day with it, but it was pretty cool,” explained Pearson. “We had a good game plan and we executed it well.”
With 25 games played during the regular season, Pearson will still be eligible for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year next season, as a player must have played 26 or more games the prior season (in addition to other factors which are irrelevant in Pearson’s situation) in order to be ineligible for rookie status.
So how does it feel to win a Stanley Cup even before your rookie year?
“It’s really special to win it your first year, but you look at [Robyn] Regehr when he lifted that Cup and how hard he’s worked for 15 or so seasons already, so for him to lift that Cup was pretty cool to see, but to do it the first year was pretty special, too.”
He may never have his own theme park ride, but settling for the Stanley Cup isn’t too terrible.
Join the conversation on Twitter with the NHL, LA Kings and the Cup Keepers for their summer with Stanley by using the hashtag #StanleyCup
LA Kings: @LAKings
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
You can also check out the Stanley Cup on Facebook at Facebook.com/StanleyCup and Facebook.com/TravelsWithStanley
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