Waterdown’s Carter Verhaeghe still can’t quite believe he lifted the Stanley Cup, News (Hamilton Jr Bulldogs)

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Waterdown’s Carter Verhaeghe still can’t quite believe he lifted the Stanley Cup
Submitted By Dianne Skirving on Friday, October 9, 2020
By Scott Radley, Spectator Columnist - Fri., Oct. 9, 2020    

There have been some unfortunate spelling mistakes on the Stanley Cup over the years. Bob Gainey went on there as Gainy one time. Burlington’s Gaye Stewart became Gave Stewart. Jacques Plante won it five straight seasons and got a different spelling each time.

So, before the woman in Montreal who does the engraving gets to work on this year’s list, Carter Verhaeghe might want to send her a note. Just to be sure. “I probably should,” the Waterdown native laughs.

For obvious reasons. There are a lot of vowels in that surname, he quips. More than a few times he’s had the second H turned into a U. Or worse. One time even a batch of personalized sticks came with his name all mangled.

But this is the Stanley freakin’ Cup. Since he’s going to be on it forever, his name should probably be correct.

That’s stunning to him. Not the spelling issues. The fact that he’s going to be on there. A week after his Tampa Bay Lightning won the Cup, he’s still in a bit of a daze at the whole thing.

Verhaeghe-Team_Pic_Stanley_Cup_2020.jpg

He used to have a picture of himself next to the big mug hanging in his bedroom. The photo was taken during a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto when he was a kid. Now, he’s someday going to be able to take his future kids and future grandkids to the Hall and point to his own name on sports’ greatest trophy.

“For my name to be engraved forever …” the 25-year-old says, his voice trailing off. “It’s kind of surreal.”

This is a guy who wasn’t the highest scorer on his Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs team, was a late second-round pick in the Ontario Hockey League then went late in the third-round of the 2013 NHL draft to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who traded him to the New York Islanders. There he spent two years splitting time between the AHL and ECHL before being traded to Tampa Bay for a goalie now playing in Germany.

The point is, this hasn’t been an easy road. He’s always been a really good player but he’s had to grind to get to the NHL. He admits he had some doubts whether he’d ever stick in the big league. There was a belief he could play at that level but you need someone to believe in you as well.

“You never know if you’ll ever be able to do it,” he says. “It’s so tough to do.”

But a year ago on the farm team, he exploded. Everything came together and he won the league scoring title. That helped earn him a spot on the big club. Which led to him being in the bubble and on the ice for most of the playoffs.

And there for the celebration with the Stanley Cup, which was heavier than Verhaeghe expected, by the way.

The other details of that moment? They’re a little hazier. It seems winning the thing is a little overwhelming after spending your entire life dreaming about it. So he kind of blacked out a bit.

Does he recall who handed him the Cup?

“(Jan) Rutta, I think,” he says.

Correct. And who did he pass it off to?

“I’m not sure.”

See.

Doesn’t matter. He won. Days later, he still sounds rather stunned by the whole thing. Or maybe it’s the effects of the exhausting five days of celebrating since. Either way, as you talk to him he truly sounds blown away that this has happened.

“I lifted the Cup,” he says, speaking with exactly the inflection you’d expect of someone having a hard time not pinching himself again and again. “Above my head. On the ice. That is something else.”

Yes. It is. First Hamilton Jr. Bulldog to do it.

When the game was over, he kept his sweater. He kept the championship hat and T-shirt they gave him after the game, too. Might have been a few other things tucked away as well.

Now, he just waits in his downtown Tampa condo overlooking the arena to find out if he gets a day with the Cup as is tradition. That’s still up in the air because of COVID-19. And waits for his ring. Which is mind-blowing.

And waits to see his name etched beautifully in silver alongside names like Gretzky and Orr and Howe.

Hopefully spelled correctly.


Scott_Radley-Small-authorbio.jpg

Scott Radley is a Hamilton-based columnist at The Spectator.

Reach him via email: [email protected]

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