Fans of the Newfoundland Growlers will be seeing double tonight at Mile One Centre in St. John’s.
No, we’re not suggesting it will be because they’ll be doing too much celebrating as the Growlers raise their ECHL championship banner prior to their 2019-20 season-opener against the Reading Royals.
Rather, it’s because there will be two versions of the ECHL championship trophy in the building.
Call them Kelly Cup 2.0 and 3.0.
You might remember when the Growlers took the ECHL title this past spring that they were awarded what was the third version of the Kelly Cup.
The first was on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame, while the second had been retained by the 2017-18 league champs, the Colorado Eagles.
The full story of the Eagles’ refusal to return the Cup to the league in 2018 has not been revealed, but it was rooted in some disagreement that developed when the Colorado franchise left the ECHL to join the American Hockey League.
Whatever the case, the ECHL was forced to commission a third version of the trophy, which was the one presented to the Growlers in early June at Mile One after they defeated the Toledo Walleye in the 2018-19 championship final.
But sometime during the off-season, there was sort of détente reached concerning the Colorado-held trophy.
There has been a suggestion the reconciliation — if it can be called that — began when Growlers chief operating officer Glenn Stanford, a longtime former AHL executive, was a special guest at the AHL’s summer board of governors meeting, and got to talk with Eagles executives about the possibility of resolving the Kelly Cup issue.
Stanford won’t confirm that’s how it came about, but there indeed has been a resolution, formalized in the Eagles turning over the trophy they had been holding to the ECHL and the Growlers, and accompanying press releases with words of praise.
“We’re excited to put this behind us and we couldn’t think of a better ending than to have this classy organization be the new caretaker of the Kelly Cup." said Eagles owner, Martin Lind in the release. "It was delivered in perfect condition directly to the Newfoundland Growlers to honour their well-deserved championship.”
“We thank the Eagles ownership group for providing us with another Kelly Cup to help in elevating (tonight’s) celebration,” said Growlers owner Dean MacDonald in the same release.
That celebration of a championship won in the Newfoundland’s inaugural season will extend into next weekend when the Growlers conclude a season-opening homestand with games against the Brampton Beast. That’s when the team will have another ceremony to hand out championship rings.
But tonight, it’s about the banner and the trophy. Or trophies.
Both available versions of the Kelly Cup will be featured in tonight’s fete, but it’s expected the Growlers will retain, during the season, the silverware they were awarded in June, if only because it’s the one with engraved names of the Newfoundland players, coaches and management.