AVON, August 20 – A year ago, Farmington native Nick Bonino had the Stanley Cup for day – the long-standing tradition in the National Hockey League for players on teams that capture the Stanley Cup championship.
“I think I had it for 10 minutes,” he said with a grin Sunday.
It was a whirlwind day last year as Bonino took the Stanley Cup to multiple locations – his parent’s home, his grandparent’s home, a golf course, the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford and to Avon Old Farms where thousands of fans stood in line for hours for the opportunity to take a photo with Bonino and the Stanley Cup.
Bonino’s Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup for the second straight year in June, beating the Nashville Predators, to become the first team to win back-to-back championships since Detroit in 1997 and 1998.
Once again, Bonino brought the Cup back to Avon Old Farms for fans to see and to raise money for the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. But he adjusted the schedule a bit. He planned another trip to his grandmother’s house to snack on her legendary pasta salad and then bring the Cup to a big, backyard party at a friend’s home.
“I just want to sit with it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to relaxing with it today.”
Nearly 600 fans came to Avon Old Farms Sunday to view the Cup and raised nearly $6,000 for the Children’s Medical Center.
The first people in line were Jane and Tim Goundrey of Avon. A year ago, they were among thousands standing in long lines in 95 degree heat. They didn’t get to see the Cup outside of a walk through the line made by Bonino when it was time to go.
This time, the Goundrey’s took no chances. Jane Goundrey was the first in line at 5:15 a.m. Tim and their children Cassie, 11, and Connor, 9, joined her around 8 a.m. Cassie and Connor both love playing hockey. “It’s a big inspiration to the kids to have a local player in the NHL,” Jane Goundrey said.
The second group in line was Natale Dinatale of Cheshire and his 10-year-old son Christopher, decked out in Penguins jersey. It was Christopher that got his father up at 4 a.m. to make the trip to Avon. Christopher had worried that the family wouldn’t get back from vacation in time to see the Cup.
Christopher had the biggest smile on his face when he met Bonino and got a few photos snapped with the Stanley Cup.
Later in the morning, the eyes of seven-year-old Luke Latulippe of Feeding Hills, Mass., were huge when he shook Bonino’s hand and posed with a picture with the Stanley Cup. Luke’s dad, Armand, said that Luke had hockey practice this morning in Enfield and they raced down to Avon as soon as it was over.
“We’re so happy that he is here (with the Stanley Cup). We’re grateful he could come back to raise money for charity. We’re proud of him,” Bonino’s former coach at Avon Old Farms John Gardner said.
Bonino scored 68 goals as a junior at Farmington High, leading the Indians to the CIAC Division II state championship with a 5-4 win in two OT over Trumbull in 2005. He had the game-winning goal and two goals in the third period for Farmington.
He moved onto Avon Old Farms where he led the Winged Beavers to the New England championship in 2007. At Boston University, he helped the Terriers win a NCAA championship in 2009.
He won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016 and again in 2017 as Pittsburgh beat Nashville in six games to win the Stanley Cup and NHL championship again. This spring, he had four goals and three assists in 21 playoff games. He played only two games in the final due to a leg injury (broken leg from blocking a shot) but he had two goals in 16 minutes of ice time in game one.
“It’s surreal to be here again (with the Cup),” Bonino said Sunday. “This year, it (playoffs) was almost business-like as we went through team and after team. Today is sort of the last hurrah with Pittsburgh. After today, I can turn the page.”
In July, Bonino signed a four-year, $16.4 million free agent deal with Nashville. “It’s an electric scene,” he said of Nashville. “They’re very passionate and that is one of the reasons I signed to play there.” Bonino will get a chance to be a second line center and help the Predators in their quest for the Stanley Cup championship.
For one last day, Bonino looked back – to a second straight Stanley Cup championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He shared it with his community and his friends. They celebrated, smiled and remembered.
Again, this was a day that a Stanley Cup champion brought the Stanley Cup to the Farmington Valley and Avon Old Farms.