Day with Cup a “Surreal Experience”

Aug 28, 2010

Haviland's day with the Cup a 'surreal' experience

MIDDLETOWN TWP., N.J.— Mike Haviland spent a good portion of his childhood playing hockey with his two brothers. Naturally, they'd always play for the Stanley Cup.

Fast forward three decades to a sunny Sunday afternoon on the New Jersey shore. There was Mike Haviland, now 43 years old, sharing hockey's Holy Grail with family, friends and neighbors in celebration of the Middletown native's big day with the Stanley Cup.

"It's so surreal," said Haviland, an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks. "I never thought it'd be this overwhelming … just the outpour of people. It has been crazy. Maybe I didn't understand the magnitude of New Jersey, but the people here are hockey fans. It's amazing to see."

Haviland first received the Cup at 8 a.m. at his home in Sea Girt, N.J. His three children, ranging from ages 7 to 11, took turns bringing it into their rooms and taking pictures with it. Haviland also took dozens of photos with family and friends on his lawn before heading out for his big day.

"We had it in the morning together, all of us," Haviland said. "They had it in their rooms. They had it every place. Just outstanding. They had the biggest smiles on their faces. I don't think they realize it right now, but they certainly will when they get older."

Haviland's first stop was to the house he lived in as a child in Leonardo, N.J. Dozens of his old neighbors cheered wildly as Haviland stepped off the bus and hoisted Lord Stanley high above his head in front of the corner home. After taking some pictures with his parents and brothers on the front steps, Haviland then gave his former neighbors the opportunity to have their picture taken with the Cup. From there, it was on to a private party with friends and family at the Shore Casino in Atlantic Highlands.

I think the biggest thing for me was coming around the corner to my old house," Haviland said. "There was a couple hundred people in the street. I never would have thought that. And then going into that restaurant with all my family and friends … it's just been a whirlwind."

With the now-famous Hawks' goal song "Chelsea Dagger" blaring in the background, Haviland entered the party with the Cup to a large roar. He then spent roughly 90 percent of the three-hour fiesta signing autographs and taking pictures.

"There are players and coaches that are in the NHL for 10, 15 years that never get to win the Stanley Cup," Haviland's brother Rich said during an emotional speech.  "Mike has done it in just two years. Thank you for getting our name on the Stanley Cup. This is the first of many for you."

Considering what he's accomplished thus far, that statement might not be far-fetched. A former AHL Coach of the Year (2007) with two ECHL titles (2003, 2005) on his resume, Haviland is entering his third season as an assistant with the Blackhawks. While he didn't receive any interviews for a head coaching position this summer, one has to believe Haviland's day will come.

But Sunday wasn't about what lies ahead. It was about what he helped the Blackhawks accomplish for the first time in 49 years. It was about what happens when you follow your dreams. It was about sharing his day in the sun with those who always believed in him.

"It's sunk in now," Haviland said. "I'm never a guy who likes to be up in the front of things, but this has been at times overwhelming. It has sunk in, just the magnitude of this. To see people's faces, the joy that it brings them … it's exactly how I feel. It's been an unbelievable day to share this with a lot of friends.

"I never thought it would be like this," Haviland said. "Never."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL