FORT WAYNE – As if bringing the Stanley Cup wasn't enough excitement, Robbie Laird got to drive the trophy 70 mph through downtown with a police escort Tuesday.
"Just as the plane landed, there was a nice policeman in front of the airport and he told me he'd turn on his flashers and, 'Just follow me.' So we must have saved five or 10 minutes on the way over here," said Laird, a scout with the NHL-champion Los Angeles Kings, who brought the Cup to his hometown.
Those five or 10 minutes seemed like an eternity to the more than 1,000 people who showed up at Hope for Animals – some had waited more than five hours – for a chance to see the Cup.
They wore jerseys representing almost every NHL team, including Laird's Kings.
"I don't know if excitement describes my feelings right now," said Laird, a former player and coach with the Komets in the original IHL. "I'm overwhelmed by the response we got here, all the people here. It's fantastic that they're out here to see the clinic (which hopes to end euthanasia of healthy adoptable pets). And kudos to Fort Wayne and their passion for hockey."
People of all ages lined up to take pictures with the Cup, among the crowd was 9-year-old Kylie Stratman.
"My brother is especially a big hockey fan. He goes to almost every single Komets game," said Stratman, a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins. "My mom and dad surprised us about doing this. I didn't know we were going to do this exactly. I knew they were going to bring (the Cup) into town, and it's a lot of fun."
It was the first time the Cup had been in Fort Wayne since the 2004 UHL All-Star Game.
Laird had the Cup for only one day and decided bringing it to H.O.P.E. for Animals was a perfect fit, since it helped raise money for a good cause – pictures with the Cup required a $5 donation.
Laird's wife, Madeleine, is H.O.P.E. for Animals' executive director.
Laird has worked for the Kings for 18 years.
"Even prior to that, it's a dream playing youth hockey and all the way up (to get to hoist the Cup)," Laird said. "It's a special year. It was actually an average year and an incredible playoffs. It caught us all by surprise, how much success we had and that we were able to go on that kind of a run by going (16-4 in the postseason)."
While there is a long history of debauchery with the Cup when players, coaches and staff members have it, Laird wasn't sure if he would be drinking or eating cereal out of it or just gazing longingly at it.
"I don't really have a plan," said Laird, who was going to have a get-together at his house with close friends and the trophy. "I'm just going to ad-lib it."