HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Nathan MacKinnon gazed over the Grand Parade Square. Throngs of individuals packed the oblong area, which was used for army drills years in the past. Some had come from down the road or simply throughout the harbor, and others from neighboring Canadian provinces. One household even made the trek from Nunavut, a sparsely populated northern territory in Canada.

They had been all there for MacKinnon. To get as shut as they might to the NHL star, to listen to his voice, to be part of his second.

It rained in Halifax earlier within the week, however the climate cleared up in time for MacKinnon’s day with the Stanley Cup on Saturday. The afternoon was sunny and heat with an occasional breeze coming in from the never-far-away waterfront.

At one level, MacKinnon took the stage in entrance of metropolis corridor to reply questions, the Cup resting in entrance of him. Toward the top of the session, CTV Atlantic anchor Paul Hollingsworth — the Q&A moderator — requested what recommendation MacKinnon would give his younger self.

“Just enjoy the ride a little bit more. I was a bit of a psychopath when I was a kid,” MacKinnon stated, drawing laughs from the group. “All I wanted to do was play in the NHL.”

Fans packed into the Grand Parade Square in Halifax. (Peter Baugh)

MacKinnon is a relentless competitor. His pairing of drive and pure skill has made him a No. 1 draft decide, a star in Colorado and — after rebuilds and heartbreak — a champion. He’s critical and centered, fiery and fierce.

But on Saturday, he couldn’t cease smiling.

Perhaps he seemed forward an excessive amount of as a child, as he stated. Perhaps he didn’t all the time benefit from the second. But he definitely was having fun with it on his day with the Cup.

“I’ve never seen him that happy in my life,” his shut buddy Ian Saab stated after the parade by Halifax. “I’ve never seen that face before.”

The 26-year-old MacKinnon has poured numerous hours into hockey. That work began as a teen in Cole Harbour, a city throughout the harbor that’s a part of the Halifax Regional Municipality. It has continued into his skilled days in Denver, the place he’s added an all-encompassing method to the game, dialing into weight loss plan and recovery work alongside together with his on-ice coaching. He put in that effort as a result of he wished to win. Because he wished to get so far. Because he craved experiences like this.

“I’m sure he’s kind of planned (his Cup day) in his mind years before this summer,” stated Penguins star Sidney Crosby, MacKinnon’s idol-turned-friend.

Now the second had arrived.

Driving into Cole Harbour, guests see a light-weight blue “Welcome” signal. Under the city’s identify, there’s a observe.

“HOME OF SIDNEY CROSBY,” it reads, full with a pair of No. 87 hockey pucks.

As of this summer time, the Crosby tribute isn’t alone. The signal has a brand new addition, slightly below the Pittsburgh captain’s identify: “We proudly congratulate Nathan MacKinnon on the 2021/22 Stanley Cup Championship!”

Cole Harbour Place is a brief stroll from the signal. It’s an expansive constructing — one which began as a hockey rink and expanded within the late Nineteen Eighties. MacKinnon grew up with it as a full-blown group heart. It has two rinks, a library, a pool and a health club, in addition to baseball fields and tennis courts out again. Cole Murphy, certainly one of MacKinnon’s childhood mates, remembers going there incessantly with the now-NHLer, typically for a number of practices a day.

“We lived there as kids,” Murphy stated.

On the second flooring, a pair of cased displays line the wall that borders the unique rink. One shows photos and kit from Crosby. The different focuses on MacKinnon. His case consists of jerseys from the Avalanche, Team Canada, the Halifax Mooseheads main junior crew and the Cole Harbour Wings, his youth membership. On the leftmost shelf are trophies and photos from his childhood, together with certainly one of a 2-year-old MacKinnon standing in skates for the primary time. The picture exhibits him carrying a white turtleneck, smiling as he retains stability.


A photograph of younger Nathan MacKinnon within the Cole Harbour Place show case. (Peter Baugh)

Before lengthy, taking part in within the NHL was his aspiration.

“He’s never had a Plan B,” stated Jon Greenwood, who coached MacKinnon on the pee wee and bantam ranges and helps him practice within the offseason. “This was always his Plan A. His only plan.”

And Cole Harbour Place was an vital step on that journey. The constructing, dwelling to mementos and reminiscences, is the place MacKinnon wished to begin his day with the Cup.

Representatives from the Hockey Hall of Fame met him within the parking zone to present him the trophy, which he’d additionally had the night earlier than for a personal get together. MacKinnon, carrying a grey Stanley Cup champions shirt, lifted the trophy out of its case. He walked it to the entrance of the constructing and hoisted it over his head, smiling for cameras.

Inside the group heart, MacKinnon stunned a gaggle of youth gamers, watching their faces brighten on the sight of the Cup. He additionally took a couple of minutes to go to the unique rink, which is with out ice for the summer time, abandoning a floor on which children play flooring hockey. Along the wall behind one web, there’s a painted mural displaying an idyllic pond hockey recreation within the Canada winter. The gamers are wearing Maple Leafs and Canadiens sweaters; it’s been there for the reason that constructing was solely a hockey rink.

There are newer additions to the area, too, particularly a pair of banners: one for MacKinnon and one for Crosby. Looking over the rink from the bleachers, Greenwood recalled an 11-year-old MacKinnon difficult him to capturing competitions after apply.

“If he didn’t win one, he’d be furious,” he stated. “But then if you let him win, he’d say, ‘Are you even trying!?’ So you’d have to try. I might have beat him once or twice when he was that age, but I’m sure that stopped shortly after.”


Nathan MacKinnon poses with Jon Greenwood’s children, Maddy and Nolan, and nephew Xavier. (Courtesy of Jon Greenwood)

From there, MacKinnon took the Cup to a different nostalgia-packed location: the home he grew up in, only a five-minute drive from Cole Harbour Place. MacKinnon’s mother and father, Kathy and Graham, spend loads of time in Denver lately, however they haven’t moved out of their home since their son made it large, nor have they taken down the decorations in his childhood room.

The MacKinnon household house is on a small lake that freezes rapidly within the winter — an ideal spot for MacKinnon to hone his recreation and play with mates as a child. His mother and father saved his first web, too, which Murphy remembers capturing at every time he was at his buddy’s home. It’s tattered from taking 1000’s of pucks.

“I think there are blankets inside because the netting took too many shots,” Murphy stated. “Surprised it’s still standing. That thing took a beating.”

The web survived lengthy sufficient for MacKinnon to indicate it the Stanley Cup. He took each the online and the trophy to the dock, setting them toes aside from one another. One was a logo of arduous work, the opposite of the work’s reward.

Thirty minutes earlier than MacKinnon’s noon parade started, a chant broke out alongside Citadel Hill in downtown Halifax, began by a gaggle of children on the steps of the clock tower.

“Let’s go, Nathan, let’s go!” they known as, throwing in a pair of claps every time they took a breath.

It didn’t matter if the festivities hadn’t began or if MacKinnon was nowhere close to. Fans had been able to delight in his accomplishment.

People began flocking to Brunswick Street greater than an hour early. Some, like Mikenzie Brodka, took the ferry from throughout the harbor. She wore a No. 22 MacKinnon T-shirt from his days with the Mooseheads. With no NHL membership within the space, the Mooseheads are a significant a part of the group, and MacKinnon grew up rooting for them. His household even served as billets for one of many crew’s gamers when MacKinnon was younger.

In 2013, after spending two years at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota, MacKinnon grew to become a hometown hero by main the Mooseheads to their solely Memorial Cup win. His relationship with the membership is a part of the explanation he selected to have his parade downtown, the place there have been Mooseheads jerseys aplenty within the crowd, somewhat than throughout the harbor. Cole Harbour, in spite of everything, has had current parades because of Crosby, certainly one of which MacKinnon remembers attending as a 13-year-old.

“I think Nathan probably wanted to put a little bit of his own stamp on it,” stated Brian Urquhart, the president of the Mooseheads.


Peter and Kalen Aulatjut made the journey to Halifax from Nunavut. (Peter Baugh)

Others got here from a lot farther than the opposite aspect of the water. Nunavut is so distant that no roads are available in or out, however that didn’t cease 11-year-old Kalen Aulatjut and his mother and father from attending to the parade. The household flew to Halifax to see Kalen’s favourite participant rejoice the Cup. He dyed his hair shiny crimson in anticipation of the celebration.

By the time the parade started, there have been 1000’s of individuals alongside the route. One individual concerned with the occasion guessed there have been greater than 10,000 attendees, contemplating that’s what the Grand Parade Square holds when full and “there were a lot more than that.”

MacKinnon was blown away.

“I never expected it to be like this,” he stated throughout his Q&A.

“Once we got down there, it was like, ‘Holy shit, this is crazy,’” stated Murphy, who sat on a firetruck with MacKinnon in the course of the parade.

One fan, 49-year-old Glen Nowell, rolled as much as the parade in a Mobility Scooter he remodeled right into a mini Zamboni. He had adorned it to honor the Mooseheads for Halloween however redecorated it after Colorado received the Cup. The car now has Avalanche colours and options an unplugged Stanley Cup popcorn maker on the entrance.

“(MacKinnon) has got so much support,” Nowell stated. “It’s a joy that he brings to the city, and here’s an opportunity for us to give it back.”


Glen Nowell on the parade. (Peter Baugh)

Kids lined the road, together with brothers Charlie and Harrison Lewis, each of whom had mini Stanley Cups taped to their hats. Asked the place MacKinnon ranks on his favorite-player checklist, 11-year-old Charlie thought for a second, then confirmed youth’s unfaltering honesty.

“Hmmm,” he stated. “Four maybe.”

He finally modified his reply to 3, itemizing MacKinnon behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Nine-year-old Harrison, in the meantime, stated MacKinnon is his second-favorite behind John Tavares.

MacKinnon was No. 1 for Isa Boswell, a highschool senior from New York state who was on the town to go to her grandparents, who stay in Nova Scotia. After highschool, she stated, she hopes to play faculty hockey, and she or he appreciates the way in which MacKinnon performs.

“I admire how he’s a 200-foot player,” she stated. “Very aggressive, very smart, very strong in every aspect of his game.”

The parade started on Brunswick Street, proper subsequent to the Scotiabank Centre, the place MacKinnon performed for the Mooseheads. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police pipe band led the procession, taking part in bagpipes and drums. Bev Nimmo, one of many bagpipe gamers, stated that though she is aware of nothing about hockey, she is aware of who MacKinnon is. She may really feel how joyful individuals had been as she performed within the parade. The metropolis’s pleasure was obvious.


Nathan MacKinnon rode by city on a firetruck. (Peter Baugh)

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog and veteran ahead Andrew Cogliano made shock appearances, too, driving behind the band in a horse-drawn carriage. Both flew in from the Toronto space. They high-fived children as they handed. One fan even bumped into the road to get an image with Landeskog.

A pair of Mooseheads gamers, Hurricanes draft decide Bobby Orr (not the Hall of Fame defenseman) and Flames draft decide Cameron Whynot, adopted the Avalanche gamers, handing out posters and T-shirts.

Then, lastly, got here MacKinnon within the firetruck. His mother and father sat with him, as did his girlfriend, Charlotte, and sister, Sarah. The crowd roared every time he hoisted the Cup. He kissed it above his head proper as he handed the scenic clock tower.

Fans crowded the sidewalks, and a few opted for an aerial view, watching from condo balconies. The truck snaked by the town, the horn blaring so nobody may miss the Stanley Cup approaching. Anyone in attendance would have been hard-pressed to see MacKinnon with out a smile.

The procession ended on the Grand Parade Square, the place Mayor Mike Savage declared Aug. 20 Nathan MacKinnon Day.

“Definitely a bucket list moment,” MacKinnon stated in the course of the Q&A. “This is very special.”

A few weeks earlier than the parade, Kathy MacKinnon known as Urquhart. He advised her the Mooseheads would assist set up no matter they might for the occasion. She talked about that Nathan wished to carry the Stanley Cup to Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Building hospital.

After the Mooseheads received the Memorial Cup, the crew took the trophy to the constructing so MacKinnon may present his grandfather, who has since handed. Now, with the Stanley Cup, he wished to return.

“It was really cool to hear that,” stated Urquhart, who set Kathy up with a contact on the hospital. “To bring that full circle.”

So, after the parade MacKinnon took the Cup to Camp Hill, then to IWK Health Centre, a kids’s hospital. The children met MacKinnon exterior, and their faces lit up once they noticed him.

“As soon as he walked out of the van, you could see the shock and excitement,” stated Murphy, who went together with his buddy on the hospital visits.

Then, after a cease on the Halifax Wanderers skilled soccer recreation, MacKinnon’s day ended with a personal get together at Saltyard Social, a two-level restaurant with a rooftop overlooking the harbor. The Stanley Cup stood surrounded by balloons on the primary flooring, the place attendees may pose for photos.

Back in June, in an on-ice interview with Sportsnet after the Avalanche received the decisive Game 6 towards Tampa Bay, MacKinnon talked about internet hosting a Cup get together, and he talked about going to ones hosted by Crosby in 2016 and 2017.

“I’ve been the drunkest guy for two of his, so he better be drunk at mine,” he stated.

Crosby was certainly there, although he added forward of time he didn’t know if he’d be the drunkest one there, as MacKinnon may need hoped.

“There are a few guys I’d have on my list as far as being there before me,” Crosby laughed. “There are guys I haven’t been able to outdo at this point. I doubt I’ll beat them now.”


The Stanley Cup throughout its journey to Halifax. (Peter Baugh)

Other NHL gamers additionally attended, together with Landeskog, Cogliano, Bruins ahead Brad Marchand and Devils defenseman Ryan Graves, who was with the Avalanche from 2018 to 2021.

Waiters and waitresses served drinks from Nova Scotia, together with Blue Lobster Vodka Soda and Tidal Bay white wine. There was quite a lot of native meals, too, together with lobster rolls, poutine and donair wraps. The vanilla cupcakes featured Stanley Cup logos.

The water seemed peaceable. Everyone, it appeared, was in a great temper.

“He could kind of be in there (with everyone) that had an impact and that he’s close with,” Murphy stated. “It capped off the night.”

MacKinnon mingled together with his company, soaking within the night and having fun with each second. The smile from early within the day by no means left his face.

(Top picture by Peter Baugh)

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