HANCOCK - It was just a normal day for fourth-year Michigan Technological University student Ross O'Brien as he strolled out to lunch with his friend to the Ambassador.
O'Brien had his favorite Minnesota Wild cap on, and when he walked in, he immediately stopped. There, sitting on the bar, shining like only it's capable of doing, was the Stanley Cup.
"I had heard about it being in the area, but I didn't think it would be here," O'Brien said. "I never could have expected this - what a cool thing."
Daily Mining Gazette/Michael H. Babcock
Brad Aldrich prepares to drink from the Stanley Cup at the Ambassador in Houghton Tuesday.
O'Brien was just one of many that happened to stroll into an unforgettable day for Brad Aldrich and his family who got up early and stayed up late toting around the oldest trophy in sports.
"We did everything that I've always thought about doing," Aldrich said. "I got so much help from friends and family."
Aldrich had a crew of 24 people renting out the Ojibwa Eagles' charter bus as they made stops at bars and hot spots all over the Houghton-Hancock area, including pictures at the Portage Lake Golf Course, sipping a fish bowl drink out of the Cup at the Ambassador and stopping traffic on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge for a picture holding the Cup over his head.
"We had a blast at the Ambassador and the picture up on the bridge was pretty special," said Aldrich.
The Cup arrived late Monday night, along with Brad's father, Mike, the equipment manager for the San Jose Sharks, and Mike Bolt, the keeper of the Cup for the Hockey Hall of Fame, who made his third trip to the Copper Country with the Cup.
"It's been awesome to say the least," Mike said. "I didn't plan on coming until Sunday night because I have training camp going on in San Jose right now. As it got closer I thought, 'There's no way I can miss this,' and luckily I work for a company that really supports me and told me to get going."
He didn't hesitate once he got the go-ahead and was there for every minute of Brad's celebration, similar to how he was there throughout the playoffs.
Mike and the Sharks were swept by Brad and the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals, and immediately after that series was over, Mike had a new favorite team in the playoffs.
"You turn into a dad instantly,"?he said. "Our team proved in the conference finals that we just weren't ready to win this trophy this season."
The Sharks have yet to win the Cup, and until they do, Mike said he would not touch it, following one of many of the Cup's unwritten rules.
"Maybe it'll be my time somewhere down the road," he said.
Mike's father and Brad's grandfather Bill Aldrich enjoyed the day with his family as well.
"I can't be any prouder; this is a very, very special event," Bill said. "Brad organized all of this himself and just did a great job.
"It's been a great year for him and Mike, including the involvement with the Olympic team."
Mike and Brad spent a couple weeks together during the middle of the season as they helped the U.S. Olympic team finish the 2010 Winter Olympics as silver medalist.
This is the fourth time in the last 15 years the Cup has been in Houghton, dating back to 1995 when Randy McKay brought it to the Keweenaw after winning with the New Jersey Devils. McKay's Devils did it again in 2000, and in 2004, it was up for the hockey centennial celebration at the Dee Stadium.
"It's pretty amazing being near the Cup again," McKay said. "I played golf with Brad and I tried to explain to him that if you make plans, don't try to be too on schedule, because it'll be hard to keep a schedule because so many people get so thrilled that it's always just one more minute."
Brad agreed, when it was all said and done.
"All summer, I had questions for him for planning on things to do with it, and he gave me a lot of help," he said. "The players in Chicago did as well, I went to some of their parties as well, which helped me."
One piece of advice Brad took to heart was spending some intimate time with the Cup and his family.
"We spent three hours alone at our house as well; it was very private, very intimate," he said. "We got some great pictures with it."
Other stops included a visit with former Michigan Technological University administer Bill Lucier, a visit with Aldrich's 101-year-old aunt and a 400-person party at Houghton County Arena.
"I was very surprised at how smooth it went, we didn't have any problems with anything," Brad said. "Everybody got to spend time with the Cup and got pictures."
To see more pictures of the Stanley Cup and its visit to Houghton, visit cu.mininggazette.com.
Michael H. Babcock can be reached at email@example.com.