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"Hockey is a game of people, not a game of pucks"

Bo Brueck - Assistant Photo Editor
Bo Brueck - Assistant Photo Editor

They came in Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins jerseys. They came from Bowling Green, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky and Washington D.C. They came to Goggin at 10 a.m. and trickled out around 4 p.m.

"The Stanley Cup is in the building," the loudspeaker announced.

They cheered at exactly noon.

There are few things that bring over 4,000 people together on a rainy Wednesday in Oxford. Few things that force universal smiles in the Goggin Ice Center lobby, turn heads at Skippers, Mac and Joe's and CJ's and elicit cheers on stage at Brick Street.

But the combination of "The Radio Voice of the Washington Capitals" John Walton, Capitals Director of Goaltending Mitch Korn and the Stanley Cup did the trick.

"This wasn't about me," Korn said. "This was about all the people that have impacted my life. It was so everybody could experience this. It's awesome."

Korn was Miami Hockey's goalie coach from 1981-88 and spent 30 years in Oxford. Got married here, raised a daughter here and when he won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals on June 8, knew he was spending his allotted 24 hours with the Cup here.

Walton, an alum who called Miami hockey games when Korn coached, knew he had to come back, too.

Smiling strangers shared the day with Korn, Walton and Stanley.

Jim Hodapp, a 30-year Miami Hockey season ticket holder, drove from Cincinnati to see the Stanley Cup. He shook hands with Korn and basked in the Cup's history for an hour before leaving.

Miami alumnus Rusty Shuffleton flew alone from D.C. to Dayton at 10 a.m. to be a part of the festivities. He stayed in Goggin's lobby as long as he could, talking with anyone and everyone, before leaving to catch his 7:30 p.m. flight home.

Familiar faces shared the day, too.

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Kyle Burdorf, Jesse Welz and Phil Bowles are campers turned counselors and coaches at Korn's summer goalie camps. One skipped class, two skipped work and all three crowded next to Korn for a picture with the trophy.

Mike Norton, Miami's Director of Hockey, played at Miami under Korn from 1979-82. It was Norton and Korn's second Stanley Cup party, as they were a part of the New York Islanders' celebration in 1983. But Norton said this time is special.

"It's a great thing," Norton said. "Everybody's happy. For Mitch and John to do this for the Miami community and the Oxford community is very special. It brings so many people together."

Hockey fans got a piece of the special trophy.

The faces of Miami RedHawks hockey players in their 20s lit up with the same excitement as the four-year-olds on the Junior RedHawks. The Division I players didn't touch the Cup, ascribing to the suspicion that if you touch the trophy you won't win it, but the youth players couldn't keep their hands off it.

The Oxford community couldn't get enough, either.

Babies were placed in the top bowl of the trophy and, five hours later, Mac and Joe's wings filled it. Snapchat stories, Instagram photos and tweets documented the Cup's journey down High Street - posing with police cars and passersby.

"This is one of those days you want to put in a time capsule and you never want to forget," Walton said.

Korn has always said hockey is a game of people, not pucks. He spent most of his time talking with every visitor he could, often a healthy 10 feet away from the trophy. Walton spoke with family, old friends and students from all over. Both took pictures and shook hands with whoever asked.

Last Wednesday was about something bigger than the Stanley Cup.

"I never expected to win," Korn said. "I ain't never cared about winning. I will tell you when you win, you realize that it's pretty cool and that you do want to win. But, given the choice of picking one or the other, I'll take people over pucks any day."