OGDENSBURG — At 1:15 p.m. Thursday a new red Chrysler Sebring convertible pulled up just behind the Ogdensburg Free Academy gymnasium with two special passengers in the back seat.
On the left, was former OFA student Jimmy Howard, now a goalie in the Detroit Red Wings system. Next to Howard, also in a seat belt, was the Stanley Cup.
Howard picked up the trophy and carried it into the open doors of the OFA gym to find it packed with students chanting his name.
"It's pretty surreal," Howard said. "Going to school here, it's very special."
Howard did not participate in the NHL playoffs this past season, but was with the Red Wings during their Stanley Cup run, practicing with the squad in case an emergency goalie was needed.
Detroit beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games to earn the trophy, and Howard, like every other member of the squad, got to spend one day with the trophy. Howard's day was spent touring three different Ogdensburg schools and ended with a three-hour public event at a city park.
"It's a bit of a whirlwind, but it's worth it," Howard said, when asked after his talk to the OFA students about how hectic his schedule was Thursday.
Howard attended OFA, graduating in 2002, but did not compete on any varsity sports teams at the school. He did play in Ogdensburg's youth programs and spent time in high school playing the U.S. national junior teams. He also played three years of NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Maine.
One of the most excited spectators at Thursday's event was OFA hockey coach Jon Frederick, who had coached Howard when he was a youth player.
"It's been a lifetime dream to see the Cup," Frederick said. "It's unbelievable. It's great for Ogdensburg minor hockey. I think it's a good motivation for a kid who has a dream to play and go for it."
Howard appeared a bit overwhelmed by the event at OFA, and some of his answers to the students could barely be heard. But two messages Howard did clearly convey were the importance of having dreams and also the importance of working hard to achieve them, mentioning that conditioning would be a key in his attempt to make the Red Wings this season as a backup goalie.
"No matter what you are doing, have fun with what you are doing and go for your dreams," Howard told the students. "If you have a dream, just pursue it. You never know, it could be you up here."
After his talk, as he was about to get back into the car for the next stop on Thursday's tour, Howard again spoke of what he hoped would be the one driving message for the students.
"It helps cement that if they have goals and dreams they should go after them," Howard said.
OFA athletic director Tony Bjork, a former OFA student himself, watched with pride as he stood along one of the walls of the gym watching the event.
"It's awesome," Bjork said. "He really represents Ogdensburg very well. It really shows the talent that's here in Ogdensburg."
nNOTES:Thursday's event was not the first appearance of the Stanley Cup in the north country. Former Clarkson standoutErik Colebrought the Cup to his home on Norwood Lake in 2006 after he won it while a member of the Carolina Hurricanes. St. Lawrence University head trainerRon Waskealso has had days with the Stanley Cup, winning it four times with the New York Islanders from 1980-83. Another SLU alum,Bill Torrey, was the general manager of the Islanders and also brought the Cup to Canton.