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Guentzel introduces Woodbury to the Stanley Cup

Jake Guentzel poses for a photo with his dad, Mike Guentzel, who is associate head coach of the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 5
Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens reads a city proclamation to Jake Guentzel during the Stanley Cup appearance at HealthEast Sports Center. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 5
Duluth’s Joe Johnsen, left, made sure he was first in line to see the Stanley Cup by arriving at HealthEast Sports Center at 10 p.m. last night. Woodbury’s Jon Lipps, right, finally joined him at 6:30 a.m. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 5
Jake Guentzel, left, takes a photo with Woodbury family (left to right) Andrew Zimmerman, Anna Zimmerman, Jodie Zimmerman and Matthew Zimmerman (front). Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 5
Woodbury seventh graders and Woodbury Youth Hockey Association players Tanner Noll (middle) and Dylan Carlson take a photo with Jake Guentzel and the Stanley Cup. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 5

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel grew up playing hockey at what was then known as the Bielenberg Sports Center.

On Thursday, July 13, Guentzel returned to HealthEast Sports Center to give fans a few hours with the Stanley Cup. Guentzel and a large group of family and friends arrived just before 1 p.m. By then, hundreds of people were already in line for their 10 seconds of Stanley Cup glory.

“I wouldn’t be here without this rink, and growing up here,” Guentzel said about the HealthEast ice arena. “Obviously, it’s special to be here and to see what they did to this building now. It’s pretty cool.”

Each player with the NHL's championship team gets a day with the Stanley Cup, and Guentzel decided to spend his at home in Minnesota. He was a major factor in Pittsburgh’s championship run, leading all postseason scorers with 13 goals. He came within one goal of tying former North Star Dino Ciccarelli’s rookie NHL playoff scoring record (14), but he did tie Ciccarelli and former Flyer Ville Leino for the most all-time rookie postseason points with 21.

A year ago, Guentzel had not even played one game in the NHL. On July 13, he was showing off the championship trophy to hundreds of people.

“I didn’t expect it to go like this, and it’s been fun,” Guentzel said. “You’re just trying to soak it all in.”

Fans from across the state of Minnesota and beyond made the trip to HealthEast Sports Center. Duluth’s Joe Johnsen arrived in Woodbury at about 10 p.m. the night before the event to solidify his place as the first person in line.

He was the only person in line for about eight hours. Woodbury’s Jon Lipps finally joined him at about 6:30 a.m.

“I’m just a big fan, and I wanted to see the cup,” Johnsen said. “I wanted to be first in line.”

Johnsen got some shuteye during the night, but he also passed some of the time on a nearby field practicing his chipping game.

“I slept on my blanket and pillow, slept for a little bit, then I woke up at 2 (a.m.), bored,” Johnsen said. “So I brought the golf clubs out, and was chipping.”

Guentzel had a large group of family and friends with him on his day with the Stanley Cup. One of those family members was Jake's oldest brother, Gabe Guentzel, who is a professional hockey player in Germany with the DEL's Augsburger Panther.

Because he was overseas, Gabe was not able to join the rest of his family in Pittsburgh to watch Jake's first professional game of his career. But he stayed up to watch online, seeing his brother score his first two NHL goals.

“I watched his first game, I wasn’t going to miss that,” Gabe said. “It started at one in the morning for me, or two in the morning. It’s funny, I actually told my dad he was going to score that night, and he scored.”

Gabe returned from Germany by March 30, in time to travel to Pittsburgh with the rest of the Guentzel family to see the final two regular season games. He made trips to watch games throughout the playoffs, and he even stayed with Jake in his hotel room during the Stanley Cup finals.

Gabe said it did not fully set in that his brother is a Stanley Cup champion until the cup arrived on July 13.

“Even for me, before he got into pro hockey, Sidney Crosby is the best player in the NHL, and the world, probably,” he said. “To be able to have him as a centerman, for Jake, is unreal. Sometimes it’s like, you’ve got to pinch me.”