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Lord Stanley pays a visit

Every summer, each player from the Stanley Cup-winning team can spend 24 hours with the greatest trophy in professional sports. Accompanying the names etched into the Cup are the stories that helped produce its folklore, tales that grow taller with every year but are entertaining just the same.

Mario Lemieux once chucked it into his swimming pool. Martin Brodeur took it to the movies with his kids and filled it with popcorn. Ed Olczyk allowed Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin to eat from it. Sylvain Lefebvre had his daughter baptized in it.

Clarence-raised Kevyn Adams paraded the Cup around Lake Chautauqua in his boat last year and chugged beer from it with his neighbors. Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman several times had the Cup in his backyard, adjacent to Transit Valley Country Club, on display for his golf-playing hockey buddies and fellow members. Associate coach Barry Smith partied with the Cup along the beaches of Lake Erie in Angola.

On Wednesday, Todd Marchant celebrated the Stanley Cup with his family. He and his wife, Caroline, watched as their three children -- Lilli, 9; Ashley, 7; and Timmy, 5 1/2 -- ate Cheerios from it in a Fourth of July breakfast to remember.

The Anaheim Ducks forward and Williamsville native also spent a few hours with several hundred friends who lined up for pictures in the Amherst Pepsi Center before a party at his home. It must have felt good to be him Wednesday, hanging around for a day with his new best buddy, Lord Stanley.

"It hasn't really sunk in," Marchant said. "There was a lot of time, a lot of sacrifice, and a lot of things that were put into it. It's all paid off. There are only two of us from the Buffalo area to ever bring it home as players. Kevyn will tell you the same thing. It was a lot of hard work, a lot of ups and downs."

Marchant's parents and two brothers were there, basking in the glow of the Cup on the very spot the boys played youth hockey while growing up in Williamsville, back when the rink was called Audubon. His father, Peter, himself a longtime coach, was still trying to grasp the fact his kid won it all. He was just a few feet from his son when a teammate dumped a Cupfull of beer -- no, not Genny Pounders -- over his head in the Ducks' euphoric dressing room. The past three weeks have seemed so surreal.

"This was the equivalent of the Lombardi Trophy. This is the equivalent of the World Series," Peter Marchant said. "Even being involved in hockey most of my life it was like, 'Wow, you really did this.' I heard from people I hadn't heard from in 10 or 15 years. You don't realize what a large shadow you cast."

Good for Marchant, a class act and tireless worker throughout his career. His father and coaches wouldn't have predicted years ago he would have a 14-year career in the National Hockey League, let alone a Stanley Cup, but he never gave up. He carved himself a role as a terrific two-way forward who can play any position, a leader who helped his team because he was willing to do the little things.

He deserved a day where he could kick back and soak up the glory with his family. His day with the Cup was a refreshing diversion for everybody else in town, something positive after watching Sabres management attempt to worm their way from their recent blunderfest involving Daniel Briere and Chris Drury.

Still, you couldn't help but wonder Wednesday if the only way the Stanley Cup ever visits these parts is when a Buffalo kid moves away, wins one with another team and hauls it home.

Adams won it last year in Carolina after the Hurricanes made key additions at the trade deadline while the Sabres did nothing. Marchant's title with Anaheim was in direct contrast to how the Buffoons do business.

General Manager Brian Burke put the Ducks over the top when he traded for Chris Pronger, adding to a defense corps that already had Scott Niedermayer. You think Burke sat around slurping champagne after winning it all? He worried that Niedermayer might retire after winning the Cup, so he quickly signed Mathieu Schneider and Todd Bertuzzi.

Apparently, it takes Sabres management an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes. They pushed three key players in Jay McKee, Mike Grier and J.P. Dumont out the door last summer. You know what happened Sunday, when Drury and Briere left. Buffalo still hasn't done anything of significance since free agency started, unless you count embarrassing itself while pleading for patience.

Again.

The Sabres jumped at the opportunity to sign 39-year-old defenseman Teppo Numminen to a one-year contract Wednesday, likely leaving prospect Andrej Sekera in Rochester. This blockbuster move came two days after General Manager Darcy Regier said, "Even if we can afford them on the short term, we can't afford to lock out younger players to keep older players here."

This while Sheldon Souray remains available. Souray, who turns 31 next week, is 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, perfect for a team well below the salary cap such as the Sabres. He led NHL defensemen with 26 goals and had 64 points and 135 penalty minutes for Montreal last season. But who needs Souray when the Sabres can easily get Numminen?

"Every organization runs their operation differently," Peter Marchant said. "The one thing I've noticed so far in the time (Todd) has been in Anaheim is that Brian Burke is a very proactive general manager. Who knows what's going to happen with next year's team, but he's already taken steps. . . . Proactive is the way to be."

All together now: Peter Marchant For General Manager.

Reality should hit home quite literally today for Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, when the Stanley Cup arrives in East Lansing, Mich. It's when his kid brother Drew, a rookie with the Ducks, gets his 24 hours of heaven.

Ryan can look at the greatest trophy in professional sports, knowing it's so close but so very far away. Something tells me it's not quite the Stanley Cup story Ryan had in mind.

e-mail: bgleason@buffnews.com

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