Kragthorpe: Stanley Cup within reach of Utah’s King
By Kurt Kragthorpe
Tribune ColumnistFirst published May 26 2012 01:30PM
Even as a 12-year-old hockey player in Utah, Trevor Lewis somehow knew this chance would come.
The kid stood next to the Stanley Cup, smiling to reveal the braces on his teeth as he posed for a photo with his father, but that’s as close as he would get to the most famous trophy in sports.
"I’m not touching it," he said.
That’s because hockey superstition says no one who touches the Stanley Cup will ever win it.
Ordinarily, voiding such an opportunity is not an issue for Utahns. Yet here’s Lewis, playing a vital role for the Los Angeles Kings, who begin the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday at New Jersey.
"It’s been quite a ride, so far," Lewis said.
How unlikely is any of this? As teenagers, Lewis and his friends talked about playing in the NHL "if only as a running joke," said Kyle Gover. "Like, if one of us makes it, we’ll take the others with us."
Hockey is not a sanctioned high school sport in Utah. Only seven former Utah high school athletes have played for world championship teams in football, basketball and baseball — and now a hockey player is positioned to join them.
Canadian blood runs through this story. Because of his heritage, "He was either going to love hockey or hate life," said Lewis’ father, Randy, an Alberta native whose family moved to Salt Lake City when he was 10.
Trevor was skating at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center by 2, then played in youth leagues and skated with his father and other adults in late-night recreational games. Lewis also grew up playing football, baseball and soccer, evidence that his father did not force him into hockey. "He just played the game because he loved it," said Richie Sovereen, who rented the ice and played with "Big Lewie" and "Little Lewie."
Unlike the few other Utahns who have made the NHL, Lewis stayed home long enough to play one season for Brighton High School’s club team before leaving in search of better competition. During a state tournament game against Roy in 2002, the ninth-grader took the puck in an overtime shootout, faked so masterfully that the goaltender slid to the corner, and scored easily.
"That’s the second I knew" Lewis was going places in hockey, said Brighton teammate Ryan Flink.
The journey took Lewis to a high-level youth team in Colorado Springs, then to the United States Hockey League in Des Moines, Iowa. That’s where Lewis impressed the Kings, who drafted him in the NHL’s first round in 2006 at age 19. The Kings sent him to Ontario’s junior league for a season, then assigned him to their AHL affiliate in Manchester, N.H.
Fast-forward to 2012, and the No. 8-seeded Kings have knocked off Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix in the playoffs. In the team’s first three wins against Phoenix, Lewis was credited with four assists — matching his regular-season total and making himself a bargain with a two-year, $1.45 million contract.
"He has so much more confidence now; that’s the whole thing," his father said. "He knows he can play in the league now. Before, he wasn’t sure."
Lewis modestly describes his contribution as "chipping in when I can." The Kings’ third line of Lewis, Dwight King and Jarret Stoll has helped carry them to the team’s first Stanley Cup finals appearance since 1993, when Wayne Gretzky’s Kings lost to Montreal in five games. Until this season, the Kings had won only one playoff series since then.
And now they’re close to hoisting the Cup, the trophy Lewis presciently declined to touch when it visited the Maverik Center in West Valley City, according to his father’s version of the story. As Lewis remembers, "My dad wouldn’t let me touch it. I didn’t really understand why at the time."
Regardless, the Cup is within his grasp again. "It’s really crazy to think about," he said. "I could be holding it over my head soon."