While crowds of rioting Canucks fans, steamed by their team's home ice defeat, set ablaze cars and smashed store front windows under a haze of acrid smoke in Vancouver following a devastating Boston Bruins win in in game 7 at the Stanley Cup final last Wednesday night, Neepawa's Shane Hnidy basked in the glory of victory, taking his first sip of champagne from Lord Stanley's cup after thrashing the Canucks with a final score of 4 – 0.
Game 7 on Wednesday night saw Boston take an early lead of 1 – 0 after the first period, turning the game into a comfortable 3 – 0 advantage going into the second intermission, and never looking back. Whereas during the first six games in the final it seemed that momentum shifted between the two teams time and again, it appeared that in game 7 the Bruins elevated their game to a whole new level of play, shutting out the Canucks with four unanswered goals on 2010 Canadian Olympic champion goaltender Alberto Luongo, who wasn't having his best game ever.
Celebrations in Boston extended well north of the Canadian border to Neepawa, MB., where throngs of hockey fans rooting for their home town boy Shane Hnidy, veteran defenceman for the Bruins, raised a cheer for victory. After 15 years of professional hockey, Hnidy finally found the crown jewel of his career, hoisting the cup after the game on Vancouver ice before millions of spectators worldwide. Understandably, Hnidy found it difficult to put into words the experience of his very first Stanley Cup victory.
"It's just incredible," said Hnidy in a phone interview with the Neepawa Press from Boston the morning after the win, "I've been playing 15 years now, and to get to this point, it's amazing, especially coming off an injury which had made me consider retirement. To have my name going on the Stanley Cup, and a ring - it's just amazing."
Asked if there had been any lingering doubts in his mind as to what the outcome of game 7 might be, the defenceman related his mindset in the dressing room prior to the game.
"Like I mentioned in the dressing room, you know, it's like one of these movies that you know is going to have a good ending, and I just wanted to fast forward to the end. The other games came down to the wire, but I had every confidence in our team – just the character of the guys, and the chemistry of the team - and Thomas was amazing. I just felt this was it – this was our time."
Hnidy credited his early days of playing minor hockey in Neepawa as definitely a contributing factor to his success as a professional hockey player, and though he started his career as a forward, his transition to defenceman had obviously proved to be for the best.
"I grew up playing minor hockey in Neepawa. We had limited time for practice, so a bunch of us guys played road hockey just about every day after school - I have great memories of my childhood in Neepawa."
In the combined games that Hnidy played during the playoffs for the Bruins he accumulated only seven penalty minutes, and was a force to be reckoned with, contributing to the depth of Boston's talented lineup. The Bruins, who had earlier fought tooth and nail to defeat their Montreal rivals in game seven, also flogged Philadelphia and buried Tampa Bay before earning the right to compete in the finals against the highly favoured Canucks.
For Vancouver, Wednesday night's depressing defeat came as just another ripple in the sand of a 41 year franchise drought in which they have yet to drink from the Cup, while Boston finally ended its 39 year famine, last claiming the most revered trophy of modern sport in 1972.
With every player on the Bruins roster allowed to take the Stanley Cup back to their home town as part of the victory celebrations, Shane Hnidy has every intention of doing just that.
"I'm a small town kid, loyal to my roots - I'm proud to be where I'm from, and to bring it back (to Neepawa), there is no question."