J.T. Compher shares his day with the Stanley Cup with the Village of Northbrook
After that brief, initial skate while hoisting the 35-pound trophy, a Stanley Cup winner gets one day -- 16 hours, actually -- to spend with it.
Northbrook native J.T. Compher, a left wing and center for the NHL champion Colorado Avalanche, chose to share several hours of his time with the Cup on Friday with about 550 people where it all began for him: the Northbrook Sports Center ice rink.
"It's beautiful," the long-ago Northbrook Bluehawk said of the big, silver trophy. "I can't stop looking at it myself."
As Spice City Music's Ryan Kreiter hyped up the crowd seated in the bleachers late Friday morning, Compher's relatives -- parents Bob and Valerie; his girlfriend, Sydney; and sisters Morgan and Jesse, the latter a forward on the U.S. Women's Hockey silver medal team in Beijing -- walked a path across the ice surface to chairs set up near the podium.
Another table and a blue backdrop indicated the Cup's resting place for hundreds of photographs to come.
"This is the place where we both fell in love with hockey, and to be able to share our greatest accomplishments here is something that we'll be able to remember forever," Jesse Compher said.
Players from the Bluehawks and Glenbrook North High School stood in uniform on the ice. The Stanley Cup's official "keeper," Phil Pritchard, went under the radar in civilian clothes, no white gloves or dark suit.
J.T. Compher, wearing the No. 37 Avalanche sweater in which he scored 18 goals with 15 assists this season, suddenly appeared in the stands holding aloft the Stanley Cup as he did June 26 at Tampa Bay's Amalie Arena.
Northbrook Park District board Commissioner Jeff Simon introduced Compher, noting that he mostly saw the 27-year-old play baseball before Compher focused on hockey. Compher hit a grand slam in his last at-bat in youth baseball, Simon recalled.
Northbrook Village President Kathryn Ciesla read from a proclamation declaring Friday as "J.T. Compher Day" in Northbrook.
"I think it's great that the Comphers are so invested in Northbrook," Ciesla said before the ceremony. "I'm really proud of J.T., and I bet that every kid in the room right now is wishing it were him."
When it was Compher's turn, he thanked people for showing up then asked for a moment of silence "for the people that were affected by the tragedy in Highland Park."
Compher later noted the event also was a benefit for Youth Services of Glenview/Northbrook, and urged support for the mental health services provider that turned 50 this year.
Stating his pride to be from Northbrook, he thanked the Village of Northbrook, the park district, his family and the teachers, neighbors and coaches who helped him along the way. He said, "some of my best memories of sports and life are in this building."
Compher said it was "a dream of mine" to win a Stanley Cup title and bring the Cup back to his childhood home, and to the rink.
"One thing my parents always said to me is to work hard and have fun. There's no secret to making it far in hockey or far in life. It's about working hard and having fun," Compher said.
After his 4-minute address, people lined up for their photo with Compher and the Cup, forming a line that went down a hallway outside the rink, where a display case included some of Compher's photos and memorabilia.
"He was here the other day when we were making plans, and he signed one of the posters and said, 'It's great to be at the place I love to skate the most,'" said Northbrook Park District Executive Director Molly Hamer.
Remembering Compher's college team, Northbrook's Matt Curin wore a hockey jersey from the University of Michigan, where Curin learned to become a pharmacist.
Hockey player Max Davis, 7, came with his mother, Renee, from Western Springs "to see J.T."
Glenbrook North senior center Matthew Melnick was the first Spartan to get a photo with Compher. It's his second Cup sighting, after the Blackhawks won it in 2015.
"Obviously, we're (the Spartans) here to support him, been watching his whole playoff run. It's pretty cool to see the Cup, also," Melnick said.
Little Bluehawks squirt-level goalie Sadie Budin said she "watched all" of the NHL Finals.
"I think it's amazing," she said, alongside parents Evan and Bryce and father-in-law Brad Mautner. "It's fun to meet J.T."
Bob Compher never guessed his children would enjoy this level of accomplishment and adulation. He'd come home from work and be pressed into service as J.T.'s goalie.
"I told my wife, find a park district. We've got to wear this kid out before I get home. No idea what we were getting into," he said.
As J.T. told the crowd to applause, "Without my mom, there'd be no one in this building right now."
"I don't know if there are words for today," Valerie Compher said. "I got to see my son's dreams come true today. How many times can a mom say that?"