By Metro Halifax staff
HALIFAX - The Halifax Mooseheads are back on home turf.
© Metro Halifax/Jeff Harper
Trey Lewis raises the Memorial Cup for the crowd at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
The 2013 Memorial Cup champions touched down at Halifax Stanfield International Airport around 5:15 p.m. Monday, less than 24 hours after successfully battling the determined Portland Winterhawks for the first CHL title in franchise history.
Co-captain Trey Lewis appeared in the doorway of the plane looking just as happy as a kid on Christmas morning – and probably running on a lot less sleep.
“It was surreal, best night of my life,” he said, cradling the hefty cup in his arms. “I got a little bit of sleep, but sleep’s overrated at this point.”
Memorial Cup MVP and the subject of NHL draft speculation Nathan MacKinnon also said the reality of the team’s red-hot performance and grueling 6-4 final victory hadn’t quite sunk in.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “We’re Memorial Cup champions, one of the hardest trophies to win. Definitely an indescribable feeling.”
MacKinnon said he was looking forward to Tuesday’s public celebration at noon, which includes a short parade down Carmichael Street.
“I’ve never been in a parade before so I’m looking forward to my first time,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll get pretty good support, so it should be fun.”
Cole Harbour native Stephen MacAulay admitted Sunday’s game – during which Portland closed to within one goal not once but twice – was as nerve-wracking for the Herd as it was for the fans watching across the country.
“There were some tense moments at times, maybe a little closer than we would have liked,” he said. “They played a heck of a game and we were just happy to hold on to get the win.”
MacAulay, in his last season as a junior player, said it was pretty special to wrap up his tenure with a championship in his hometown.
“It’s definitely pretty well the perfect way to go out,” he said.
Owner Bobby Smith said Sunday’s win was a “pretty special moment.”
“I’m extremely proud of this team,” he said. “I’m beaming with pride and that’s the only way to describe it.”
‘Best fans in the league’
It might be an exaggeration to say Moose Mania rivaled Beatlemania at the team’s homecoming Monday – but it might not.
A small but enthusiastic horde of Mooseheads fans waited in the rain for hours to see the Memorial Cup champions return home, huddling under soggy blankets and umbrellas until the team’s arrival.
“We wanted to see the cup and the Mooseheads, cause they’re awesome!” said a breathless Bobbie Day Wilson.
Chants of “Go Moose go!” morphed into “We’re number one!” as the plane rolled to a stop – and as Trey Lewis appeared with the trophy, the chants morphed into a din of screams, whistles and cowbells that drowned out any other sound on the tarmac.
“They deserve it. They worked hard all year, they deserve it!” hollered Kim Davidson, waving a Mooseheads flag in the crowd.
The players, in turn, had plenty of love for the fans – though they expressed it at a lower volume.
“We knew we had the best fans in the league, but … it’s a pretty crappy day and to see the support, it’s very overwhelming and we appreciate it,” said Stephen MacAulay.
Fan devotion to the team is so strong, it had at least one young man sort of hoping that pro careers could wait, at least another year, for Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon.
“I want them to stay in Halifax,” said a grinning Kyle Scanlon.