Jonathan Bernier, Marc-Andre Cliche, Alexandre Picard, Sebastien Piche, Pierre-Olivier Morin, Michael Chaput, Kirill Kabanov, Ian Saab and Marc-Andre Daneau have more in common this summer than they ever have before.
Sure, all of them are former Lewiston Maineiacs, skating at one time or another for Lewiston's former entry into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
But this year they all are champions, some of them for a second time.
Bernier and Cliche lead the list, having each had a chance to skate post-game with the Stanley Cup following the Los Angeles Kings' victory.
"I think what's amazing about it is the way we did it," Bernier said during a recent return visit to his "second home" in Auburn. "We barely made it to the playoffs, almost two points out, we go in and knock out the first team and the second team and the third. The last series was the first time we really faced adversity, and we still found a way to win it at home."
The Kings earned a legion of new Lewiston-Auburn based fans during this year's Stanley Cup run, particularly after the area's more popular Boston Bruins bowed out in the first round. That was thanks to Bernier, the team's backup goalie, and Cliche, a call-up from the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL.
"It is amazing for a young guy, but we definitely have a lot of young guys on the team, and most of the guys have at least 10 more years in them, so we definitely have another shot to win it again," Bernier said.
Bernier and Cliche were instrumental parts of the Maineiacs' run to the President's Cup in the 2007 playoffs, during which the team went 16-1 and won its only league title in eight years of existence.
"I think my whole career has been that way," Bernier said. "In the AHL we made it to the final, in juniors we won the cup and went to the Memorial Cup. Being a part of a winning team is always awesome."
Also on that 2007 title team in Lewiston were Piche and Daneau. This season, Piche finished the season with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL after a trade sent him from the Detroit organization to Tampa Bay's.
He quarterbacked the Everblades' power play and was an offensive catalyst as the team won the league title, earning the Kelly Cup. Daneau, meanwhile, played a key role for McGill University as the Redmen captured their first CIS (Canadian College) title in 2012.
Not to be outdone by Bernier, who arrived in Lewiston the season after he left, Alexandre Picard stamped his name into American Hockey League lore in this year's playoffs, leading the Norfolk Admirals to the Calder Cup championship and earning MVP honors along the way. His nine goals, seven assists and 48 penalty minutes were all among the leading numbers in the league for the playoffs.
More recent Lewiston skaters — many of whom skated in the team's final season in Maine — also collected hardware in 2012.
Saab joined Bernier, Cliche and Daneau on the list of President's Cup winners as a defenseman for the Saint John Sea Dogs.
But three former skaters — and a former GM — took home junior hockey's ultimate prize this season, earning the Memorial Cup with the host Shawinigan Cataractes.
Morin, Chaput and Kabanov, along with Roger Shannon, the team's assistant GM, were part of a run to the title that included an early exit from the league playoffs.
"When I got to Shawinigan, I already knew a couple guys," Chaput recalled. "I love every guy on that team. Winning brings a team together like nothing else. Everyone on that team was playing for one another and sacrificing themselves for each other, and that's what made us win the Memorial Cup."
"It was crazy," Morin said. "We lost in the second round and we were really disappointed with the way we played against Chicoutimi. We didn't want to play like that at the Memorial Cup, so we trained for 30 days. It was probably one of the hardest months of training in our hockey career yet. But playing in front of our fans at the Cup was just great, and unbelievable to win it like we did by winning all of our last three games against every champion of the CHL."
Even the Woodstock Slammers, a Junior 'A' team in the Maritime Hockey League in New Brunswick, won hardware with a host of players who skated at one time in Lewiston. Nick Huard, Zach Shannon and Brayden Wood helped their team to a league and regional crown.
Bernier, Chaput, Morin and many of the team's former skaters remain tight with their former host families and friends they made in the Lewiston-Auburn area. It isn't out of the ordinary for many of them to return for visits in the offseason.
Bernier, who along with fellow goaltender Jaroslav Halak and forward David Perron, both of the St. Louis Blues, have all reached the highest plateau by suiting up regularly in the NHL, is no exception.
But he didn't bring the Stanley Cup to his second home on this visit.
"I'm definitely going to share it with my hometown," Bernier said. "I'm going to bring it back to the rink where I grew up, do a little presentation there, do a dinner with my whole family. Just try to enjoy the moment."
For Bernier, the team victory was a culmination of a journey on which he embarked as a youngster, a journey that at times can seem long and slow but ultimately paid off.
"It's not easy to make it here," Bernier said. "I think you realize that once you are here. When you're outside, you know, you really want to be in, play in the NHL, and you get anxious. But as you get older, you realize, playing in the AHL, going through all those levels, you've got to. It makes you a better person, a better player and more confident."
That's something Morin, Kabanov and Chaput are about to learn as they move on from junior hockey's ultimate prize, in search of bigger and better trophies.
"I had an offer in Austria for next season but I declined it," Morin said. "I just started my training. I had to take couple weeks to rest my body from some injuries that I had this year and that I didn't have the time to treat correctly because of the Memorial Cup. I will train really hard this summer because I would like to play in the AHL next year, and the offseason training is the most important part if I want to reach my goal."
"I'm going to work my hardest to make sure I am ready for the camp in Columbus," said Chaput, who was traded from Philadelphia to Columbus during the season. "I want to make the best of the opportunity I have and give myself the best chances to make it to the next level."