Avalanche hometown tour for the Stanley Cup: behind the scenes of Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s Cup day in Sorel-Tracy
SOREL-TRACY, Que. — Amie Aube looked back and saw her son living the dream shared by children across Canada. Nicolas Aube-Kubel walked through the gate into the backyard with the sport’s most legendary trophy hoisted above his head. The Stanley Cup had arrived.
It was around 9am on Saturday, and a crowd of more than 20 family and friends had already gathered at Dawn-Kubel’s childhood home, waiting for this moment. As a member of the Stanley Cup-winning Avalanche, the forward spent his day with the Cup, kicking off the trophy’s international summer tour, during which he will travel to each player’s chosen city.
Amie described her emotions as ‘hard to explain’ as she watched her son carry the cup through the garden. Moments of joy can be exciting and overwhelming. A whirlwind.
“So many positive things in your brain,” she said. “It takes time to process.”
Aube-Kubel, 26, who Colorado picked up off waivers from the Flyers in November, didn’t have a huge statistical impact in the playoffs, failing to register a point in 14 games. But he had plus-2 odds and for the most part stayed outside the penalty box, something he struggled with in Philadelphia. He brought a physical presence to the last six attacking group which proved instrumental in the team’s championship chase.
Aube-Kubel also scored the Cup in the literal sense of the word. After Colorado won Game 6 of the championship, Aube-Kubel – a healthy scratch that night – skated the trophy to his teammates gathered for a group photo. But as he approached the rest of the team, his blade hit a crack in the ice and he fell. The base of the cup hit the hard surface, leaving with a bump. Hockey Hall of Fame employee Steve Poirier, who guarded the trophy on Saturday, said the cup underwent repairs while it was in Montreal for the NHL Draft this week.
“I hope it stays intact and in good condition,” Dawn-Kubel joked during the morning meeting.
Dozens of family and friends strolled through the backyard on Saturday, and they crept inside the house, which Dawn-Kubel moved into when he was about 11 years old. Guests grabbed croissants, cheese and fruit from a table in the kitchen, and the house bore reminders of Dawn-Kubel’s exciting past years, which included monumental on- and off-ice events. He proposed to his now-fiancée, Madison Fidler, this week, and a photo of him falling to his knees can be seen in front of the stairs to the second floor. Nearby, a large print of him in a Flyers uniform hangs over a landing, and atop the wooden steps is a large crate containing the puck he pocketed for his first NHL goal. , two photos from the game and the black Flyers jersey he wore that game.
Anie Aube is quick to point out that the photos show her son wearing the wrong uniform. Luckily, there’s still some white space to work with, room for a photo or two of the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup.
Back outside, the holy grail of hockey sat on a table next to the family pool. Aube-Kubel’s two sisters, Alex-Anne and Gabrielle, were struck by the paradox of the trophy.
“You don’t realize because there are so many names, but these are just some of the best players in hockey,” Alex-Anne said.
Now their brother’s will be among them all.
Aube-Kubel’s grandfather, Jean-Yves Aube, crossed the sunny courtyard, observing the scene around him. The 79-year-old texts his grandson before every game, reminding him of the skills that got him into the NHL: chess, skating hard and physical play. Jean-Yves said that after the Avalanche won Game 6, he received a FaceTime call from Nicolas. He was crying and told his grandfather it was the happiest day of his life.
“To be waived and win the Stanley Cup in the same year is something,” Jean-Yves said Saturday wearing a signed Avalanche championship cap.
A photo of Aube-Kubel hoisting the Cup and an Avalanche banner hung from a line above the court, and Aube-Kubel mingled with the guests, taking photo after photo next to the Cup. At one point, he struck a martial arts pose next to a young girl who, possibly from a class, arrived at the party in uniform. Even Aube-Kubel French bulldog Chanel was ready for the occasion, wearing a burgundy Avalanche shirt with a sparkling 16 on the back. Mochi, her little black pug, was also involved, allowing herself to be put in the Cup bowl for a photo. All around Dawn-Kubel were loved ones, dogs and humans, supporting him.
“That’s what I appreciate the most,” he said.
The gathering of friends and family was just the start of Dawn-Kubel’s time with the trophy. Players don’t get the Cup for long, so they have to make the most of it.
“Wait and see all day,” he said.
Sorel-Tracy, with a population of around 35,000, may be a small town, but it has a solid hockey history. Pierre Mondou, three-time Cup champion with the Canadiens in the 1970s, is from there. So is Francois Beauchemin, who won the Cup with Anaheim in 2007 and finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting in 2014. Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury grew up less than 2 miles from home. Aube-Kubel’s childhood, and Islanders forward Anthony Beauvillier was even closer: just a few blocks away.
There is a basketball court in the neighborhood which, when flooded in the winter, freezes over and turns into a makeshift hockey rink. Aube-Kubel skated there as a kid, neighbor Eric Parenteau said, adding that when Aube-Kubel was in town last summer, he got along with the local kids on the field.
So, with the Cup in town, Aube-Kubel wanted to share the experience with his entourage. That didn’t mean he had to be perfectly on schedule. The parade through the city center started at 12:30 p.m., half an hour behind the original schedule. No one seemed to pay attention.
Les Éclairs de Québec, a marching band dressed in red and black uniforms, played “I Will Survive” and led the procession. Dawn-Kubel followed a few vehicles behind, standing in the bed of a light blue Ford truck, the Coupe close at hand at all times. A group of dancers followed, all wearing navy blue T-shirts with his name on the back. They performed on pop songs, including “All I Do Is Win”, during which Aube-Kubel raised and lowered the cut with the lyrics “up down, up down, up down”.
And, naturally, the parade playlist included “All the Small Things,” which has become an anthem for the Avalanche. The dancers sang along to the hit Blink-182.
About an hour from Montreal, Sorel-Tracy is a town big enough for the parade to feel like a party, but small enough for Aube-Kubel to stop the truck and take pictures with friends along the route. He even got out of the vehicle to take the Cup to three businesses close to his heart: a restaurant he grew up in and owned by a friend; the jewelers where he bought his fiancée’s engagement ring; and the barber shop where he’s had his hair cut since he was little.
“It was crazy,” Dawn-Kubel said. “It’s a small town, a small town, and it’s cool how many people showed up. In such a short time, too? It’s pretty cool.”
During the parade, Dawn-Kubel pulled five cans of beer or seltzer, stretching her arm to make a deft grip on a drink thrown her way. He also got a pitcher of a popular local drink that mixes tomato juice and beer and poured it into the Stanley Cup. Fidler helped him tilt the trophy so he could take a sip.
Aube-Kubel remembers when the Cup came to town during Fleury’s three wins with the Penguins, and the celebrations spurred an important thought on her mind.
“It’s the earliest memory of (thinking), ‘The Cup in town would be so much fun,'” he said.
And it was. After the parade, he took the stage in front of a crowded downtown square. Alex-Anne hosted the ceremony, saying in French that it was a historic day for Sorel-Tracy. (The Avalanche’s Sasha Kandrach helped the author with the English translation.) She introduced City MPs and former Cup champions from the region posed for photos with Aube-Kubel, including Eric Messier , who won with the 2001 Avalanche and had his Cup Day in Sorel Tracy.
“Wearing the Stanley Cup with someone who played (with the Avalanche) is special,” Messier said, adding that he wants Aube-Kubel to get a Stanley Cup tattoo to match the piece. 2001 that he has on his leg. “My heart is going to be with Colorado forever.”
Shortly before signing the city’s guestbook, Aube-Kubel showered the crowd with champagne and, when he finally took the microphone, joked that speeches aren’t his strength, especially after a few drinks. Then he thanked the crowd, telling the participants that he was proud to share this day with them. He was proud to be from Sorel-Tracy.
After the ceremony, throngs of fans lined up to pose for photos with Dawn-Kubel. At one point, around 160 people lined up, stretching around a Ferris wheel in town for Gib Fest, a local festival. Everyone wanted a piece of the local hero of the day.
Finally, it was time to walk away. And Sorel-Tracy has the perfect place for that: water.
Dawn-Kubel and her family and closest friends took a two-deck boat down the nearby river. He shared drinks with his buddies and ate gibelotte – a traditional soup from the region – by the cup.
Nic prepared a traditional soup, Gibelotte, from his hometown of Sorel.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) July 9, 2022
The cruise gives way to a party on land, and the event has a surprise in store for Aube-Kubel. A close friend of his, Clarence Farley, told him he wouldn’t be able to make Cup day due to a busy time working for a music festival in Quebec. But Farley freed up his evening schedule and walked into the party hiding his face with a picture of Dawn-Kubel. He walked over to his friend, he said Athleticismthen lowered the photo.
Dawn-Kubel was caught off guard and he pulled Farley in for a hug. It was a memory of a day full of them.
As Amie said, extremely joyful experiences can take time to process. She planned to leave on Sunday for a beach vacation on the coast of Maine. When she gets there, she’ll have a chance to decompress with the ocean air around her. So maybe, she says, the craziness of the last few weeks – the magnitude of what her son has achieved – could finally start to settle down.
(Top photo: Peter Baugh / Athleticism)