ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS— George Haviland Sr. can't tell you how many times he witnessed a fictitious Stanley Cup raising in the family's home on Cedar Ave. in Middletown's Locust section, or on a roller rink in town or an ice rink somewhere in New Jersey.
But it was a lot.
So as the group of Chicago Blackhawks' family and friends filed out of a luxury box in Philadelphia's Wachovia Center last June and headed downstairs to join the on-ice celebration in the moments following their Game 6 victory in the Stanley Cup Finals, "Big George" refused to budge.
Instead, he remained above the mayhem to see his son, Michael, a Blackhawks assistant on the short list for every head coaching vacancy nowadays, hoist the 35 pounds of silver and nickel alloy that make up the most famous trophy in sports.
"And when he raised it, he looked like a 7-year-old boy," said the patriarch of one of the state's premier hockey families. "I thought, "Where are all the hockey people that I know?' I wish they could have all been there to see it. That's what went through my mind. You want everybody that you ever coached with, every kid whose life I touched, I wanted them all there to see that."
They got their chance on Sunday.
With the Atlantic Highlands Marina providing the stunning backdrop on a picture postcard morning, Mike Haviland stepped off a fire truck and recreated the moment, before heading into the Shore Casino, where 300 family members and friends began a two-day celebration at the Jersey Shore.
"You always dream about it, and I had since I was a kid," he said. "But to see it actually happen, and the outpouring of people. I can't describe it to you. I've had a lot of people right alongside of me the whole way, family and friends. So this is outstanding to see them. They get to enjoy it, too."
Many of those milling about the ballroom remember Haviland from his days playing locally, or followed him at Elmira (N.Y.) College and in Juniors. They recall when the Devils made him the first pick of the 1990 supplemental draft, and when he coached the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies to the ECHL's Kelly Cup in 2003, before winning it again in 2005 with the Trenton Titans.