Ithaca, N.Y. — Ithaca native Dustin Brown, captain of the NHL champion Los Angeles Kings, used part of his day with the trophy to host a public event at the Cass Park ice rink on Saturday.
Fans came in droves, taking photos with Brown and the Stanley Cup and donating to local charities.
Nearly 1,000 people packed into Cass Park hoping for a chance to reach the trophy, with no end of the line in sight over an hour into the two-hour event. Mayor Svante Myrick declared July 5, 2014, “Dustin Brown Day.”
Childhood friends Carmen Lucatelli and Gabe Gallucci, who have known Brown for 22 years, said that — despite the hoopla — Brown remained the same kid they grew up with.
“He hasn’t changed a bit,” Gallucci said.
In an interview, Brown said he felt almost as if he owed it to Ithaca to bring the Cup back, even for a second time in three years.
“There are so many people here that have supported me, many that I don’t even know,” Brown said.
He and his wife Nicole both have a lot of family in Ithaca; “me and my wife both grew up here, so it seemed like the place to come,” Brown said.
Brown said he used to come to Cass Park at 6 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays from when he was seven until he turned 14.
“I made a lot of memories in this building,” Brown said. “I thought this would be a pretty cool place to have (the event).”
Some reports said Brown raised around $10,000 for a new playground at the YMCA and other charitable causes. But there were also the gifts for the crowds of adoring fans.
For Ryan Konkl and Steve Kazmark, the wait began at 8 a.m. Groggy but excited, they had made their way to a soggy Cass Park only to find that they would have to take their place behind 150 other hopefuls. (The event ran from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.)
By 10:30 a.m., Ryan and Steve made it to the front of this line that would put Disney World to shame. Fans of the Buffalo Sabres, they had rooted against Brown during his playoff run, as did Rangers fan Michael Baim, who said “It feels nice to see the Cup, but I’m a Rangers fan so it’s bittersweet.”
This sentiment was shaken off when the gleaming trophy came into view.
Fans’ excitement grew as they neared the front of the line, with shouts of “Dustin!” ringing out from the front few rows.
Jack LoPinto, who identified himself as a second cousin of Brown’s, was one of the first to the front of the line, holding the following sign:
During the event, Brown quietly mingled with old friends and family. One by one, fans excitedly took their place by the Cup, handing off iPhones, disposable cameras, digitals cameras and polaroids.
When asked how the experience of the second Stanley Cup reunion compared to the first one, which occurred in 2012, Brown’s old friend Gallucci said, “In fact, this time feels more special. He just seems like he’s in a better place than I’ve ever seen him before. It’s incredible.”