NEWARK -- As New Jersey Devils rookie Adam Henrique goes through his first Stanley Cup Final experience, he has some history off the ice with the trophy he and the Los Angeles Kings are battling for.
When Rob Blake won the Cup in 2001 with the Colorado Avalanche, he brought it home to Simcoe, Ontario. Henrique's hometown of Burford wasn't far away, so the then-11-year-old soaked in the entire experience as Blake celebrated. There was a parade and finally a party at Blake's house where guest of honor, Stanley, was on display.
Henrique saw the Cup, but from a distance. He didn't touch it under orders from his father. Seeing the Cup in person only further kept Henrique dreaming that one day there would be a similar party going on in Burford.
Now 22, Henrique has turned in a regular season worthy of a Calder Trophy nomination and a postseason where he's a few more big goals away from being a serious Conn Smythe Trophy candidate after his two series-clinchers over the Florida Panthers in the opening round and New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final. He hasn't begun to process all that's developed in his first season in the NHL, but he hopes the finished product ends with another meeting with Stanley.
Henrique has approached his rookie season like a sponge, taking in feedback and observing how some of the more experienced Devils go about their business.
"Being able to learn from guys like Zach [Parise] and [Ilya Kovalchuk], Marty [Brodeur], Patty [Elias], that have had success in the league, have won championships," he said. "There's no better way to learn than to listen to what those guys have to say."
As Willie Mitchell of the Los Angeles Kings plays in his first Stanley Cup Final after 719 NHL games, Henrique realizes that getting here shouldn't be taken for granted.
"For a lot of guys it goes a lot of different ways," he said. "You see guys that have won a lot of championships and seem to be there everything. But then you see guys that have never been to the Finals or never had a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. To take that all in as a young guy and have a chance to play here my first year, it's something I don't try to overlook.
"You never know when you're going to be back."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
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