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Gibsonia’s Saad shows off Stanley Cup at 911th Airlift Wing

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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Gibsonia native Brandon Saad autographs hockey sticks belonging to the two grandsons of retired Master Sgt. Dale Hoth (right) next to the Stanley Cup on Wednesday, July 29, 2015, inside a hangar at the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon. Hoth's son and the father of the two boys is deployed with other members of the 911th Airlift Wing.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Former Chicago Blackhawk player and Gibsonia native Brandon Saad enters a hangar Wednesday, July 29, 2015, at the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon, holding the Stanley Cup and accompanied by Col. Jeff Van Dootingh, commander of the base. Each member of the cup-winning team gets to spend a day with the cherished trophy.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Gibsonia native Brandon Saad, right, smiles at Senior Master Sgt. Carol Torp behind the Stanley Cup on Wednesday, July 29, 2015, inside a hangar at the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Gibsonia native Brandon Saad enters a hangar at the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon, holding the Stanley Cup high, as he greets the military personnel on the base on Wednesday, July 29, 2015.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Gibsonia native Brandon Saad kisses the Stanley Cup Wednesday, July 29, 2015, inside a hangar at the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon before he greets the military personnel on the base.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Retired Master Sgt. Dale Hoth and his grandson give a traditional kiss to the Stanley Cup on Wednesday, July 29, 2015, inside a hangar at the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon. Hoth's son, the father of the grandson, currently is deployed with other members of the 911th Airlift Wing.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Gibsonia native Brandon Saad shakes hands with Senior Master Sgt. Mark Russak on Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in front of the Stanley Cup inside a hangar at the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Gibsonia native Brandon Saad, right, poses with Chief Master Sgt. Richard Lundy and his son, Blake, on Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in front of the Stanley Cup inside a hangar at the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Gibsonia native Brandon Saad poses with retired Master Sgt. Dale Hoth and his grandchildren next to the Stanley Cup on Wednesday, July 29, 2015, inside a hangar at the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon. Hoth's son and the father of the three boys is deployed with other members of the 911th Airlift Wing.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Gibsonia native Brandon Saad and Col. Jeff Van Dootingh, commander of the base, stand behind the Stanley Cup on Wednesday, July 29, 2015, inside a hangar at the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon.

When Cmdr. Stephanie Welhouse and the members of the 911th Airlift Wing’s force support squadron heard Gibsonia native Brandon Saad was bringing the Stanley Cup to their base Wednesday, the thought came to them immediately:

We need a picture of his trophy with our trophy.

Welhouse and the squadron recently won the Hennessy Award, presented to the top food service program in the Air Force. She placed the Hennessy Award next to the Stanley Cup on a table, and the group posed for photos, just like Saad did with a line of service members and their friends and family that stretched the length of a hangar for the preceding two hours.

His trophy and their trophy, gleaming side by side. A morning of mutual respect.

“He thinks it’s an honor to be here. We think it’s an honor for him to bring it here,” Welhouse said. “It’s wonderful. Look how many people came out. One big happy team. Pittsburgh all the way.”

Since 1995, it’s been a tradition for each member of the Stanley Cup-winning team to take possession of the trophy for a day. Since Saad was with the Chicago Blackhawks when they won the championship in 2013 and ’15, Wednesday was his second day with the Cup.

The first time, Saad didn’t have much of a plan for how to show it off.

“It was a lot of chaos,” he said.

This time, it was a different story. He and his family contacted the 911th to set up a visit.

“This is something that I’m big into, giving back to the true heroes,” Saad said.

The 911th has had plenty of famous guests in the past, from President Obama to Rocky Bleier in recent months. In military-speak, they’re called DVs: distinguished visitors. But this was the first time they had a DT: a distinguished trophy.

“It took me about 0.2 seconds to agree to that one,” said Col. Jeff Van Dootingh, commander of the 911th.

Saad’s second day with the Cup was different than his first for another reason. This time, there were no Blackhawks logos to be found, save one on the jersey of a young fan in line for an autograph. Two weeks after Chicago won the Cup in mid-June, Saad was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions,” Saad said. “With winning, you’re on a high. Being traded from the only team you’ve ever been on, that’s a new experience for me.”

Saad said he heard rumors the Penguins might be interested when it became clear the Blackhawks were going to trade him for salary-cap reasons. He liked the idea of getting to play for his hometown team. Ultimately, though, landing with Columbus, an up-and-coming team 200 miles away from Gibsonia, was fine with him.

“I know playing against them last year, they play that hard-nosed game and get to the net. That’s how you have success in this league,” Saad said. “I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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