Steven Kampfer took the handoff from Tuukka Rask and raised the silver Stanley Cup skyward, looking up into the rafters at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
The season didn’t go the way he’d imagined, but the ending was better than he ever hoped.
After winning the Stanley Cup as a member of the Boston Bruins on June 15, Kampfer, a former defenseman on the Michigan hockey team, will get to spend some quality time with the legendary trophy.
But he won’t take it to Disney World or Disneyland, as some have done before him. Nor will he take it to a horse stall and let a Kentucky Derby winner eat out of the Cup as Ed Olczyk did in 1994. And he most certainly will not use it for a baptism in Sweden, like Tomas Holmstrom did in 2008.
Kampfer has plans for a far more traditional date with the Stanley Cup.
“I’m a firm believer of ‘You’ve got to remember your roots,’ ” Kampfer said.
Kampfer intends to bring the celebrated trophy around Ann Arbor and to Yost Ice Arena — his old stomping ground. Kampfer left the Wolverines only one year ago.
He wants to show the Cup to Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson and to the rest of the coaching staff as a sign of appreciation. He may not be at Michigan anymore, but Kampfer understands, now more than ever, the impact that Michigan has had on him as a person and as a player.
After beginning the season with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League, Kampfer arrived in Boston in early December. Upon arriving with the Bruins, he knew that he was going to get playing time. Kampfer also knew that the amount of time he spent on the ice was going to be determined by how well he played.
This was nothing new to him. Playing for Michigan had prepared him for this.
“The thing with Michigan is that Red runs it like a professional organization there,” Kampfer said. “Something that Red’s been known for is that you have to go in and you have to earn everything. So when I stepped into Boston, I think that was one of the things that helped me.”
Kampfer was prepared for every little thing he came across. Whether it was facing adversity or earning his spot in the rotation, Michigan’s presence was always felt.
Even though the Jackson, Mich. native joined the Michigan hockey team as an established recruit, he admits that nothing prepared him for life in the National Hockey League as much as playing for Berenson and the Wolverines.
He maintains that one of the most underrated aspects of playing for the Michigan hockey program is the opportunity to play with and practice against great players on a daily basis.
But still, his praise for the coaching staff is endless.
The expectations were set high for him as a Wolverine — they were set high for all of his teammates — because Berenson and his assistants really wanted everyone to succeed, and they pushed him to improve. They helped build him into the player he is now.
“Red’s a phenomenal coach,” Kampfer said. “I learned so much from him. I learned so much from all three coaches. They really help you get ready for the next level.”
And Kampfer hasn’t stopped learning from them.
He continued to keep in contact with all three coaches after graduating from Michigan last year, and received instruction from the coaches throughout the season. Every couple of weeks, he would talk with assistant coach Billy Powers about his recent games and how he could make adjustments and continue to improve.
Kampfer has a profound respect for Berenson and his fellow coaches, Powers and then-associate head coach Mel Pearson.
And it’s easy to understand why.
“You’re still getting help from them when you’re away from the program because they want their players to succeed,” Kampfer said. “They want everyone to do well.
“Michigan is a family. That’s something you realize when you’re there but you learn more about when you’re gone.”
With the Michigan hockey program rooted deep inside him, Kampfer became an integral part of the Bruins. Before suffering an injury in early April, he contributed five goals and five assists on the offensive end.
While Kampfer is unsure of the exact day he will be spending with the Stanley Cup, he seems pretty certain in his destination.
“I definitely would like to take it to Yost and take it around Ann Arbor because (I) spent four years there,” Kampfer said. “It’s home.”