There are a million stories about the Stanley Cup, and a couple thousand Fort Wayne hockey fans got to add theirs to the tradition Tuesday night.
When Nick Bohnstedt and Fred Coffee drove by HOPE for Animals at 11 a.m. Tuesday, they were wondering if they'd made a mistake by not camping out the night before. Then they were relieved when they saw only workers setting up for the evening party to host the Stanley Cup.
``It's a once-in a lifetime opportunity,'' Bohnstedt said. ``I'm a big hockey fan and I play hockey. I've been a hockey fan since I was 6 years old and it's pretty much been my life. I'm super excited. I've been looking forward to this day for two weeks.''
That's when Los Angeles Kings senior scout Rob Laird, a former Komets player and coach who lives in Fort Wayne, announced he was going to host a public party for the cup at his wife Madeleine''s place of business at 1333 Maycrest Dr.
Since there was no one there, Bohnstedt and Coffee took off for a couple hours. By the time they came back, Anita Baker and Greg Gilliland had arrived from Indianapolis and were sitting patiently under the large tent. They sat in the heat for close to seven hours for the chance to be the first two people photographed with the National Hockey League's championship shrine.
``The minute he saw it on the internet, he yelled and then started working on how to get out of work,'' Baker said with a laugh.
Gilliland took a vacation day to stand next to what he called, ``The Holy Grail'' of sports.
``We offered to help set up, and they told us they didn't need help and said we could sit in the shade,'' Gilliland said. ``They are great people here.''
Baker and Gilliland were quickly followed in line by Jana Stefanciosa and Laura Albert who work at Wylie Publishing in Indianapolis. They arrived with family members at 3:15 p.m. for the chance to be No. 4 and No. 6 in line.
``When else are you going to have a chance to see the cup in person, and it's not enclosed behind plastic,''. Stefanciosa said. ``Plus, I love animals and this is a great cause.''
Organizers were hoping for 200-to-300 fans and there were that many waiting in line by 4:30 p.m, an hour before the event was supposed to start. Long before it ended at 7:30 p.m., Bohnstedt, Coffee, Baker, Gilliland, Stefanciosa and Albert were already headed home, thankful that being early was worth the wait.