Quintin Laing's Championship Parade
Here's a great way to describe Quintin Laing's current rep in D.C., via On Frozen Blog: "modest cult hero status." He's like Willie Harris, circa 2008; hard worker, likable back story, does enough little things right from outside the spotlight and enough thankless tasks that the true diehards will make up funny sayings about him while pledging their online devotion.
"If you don't love Quintin Laing, stop reading this blog and leave now. Seriously," Japers once wrote.
"You just watch Quint play and you become a fan of his," Bruce Boudreau said. "It's hard not to be."
And while you've probably heard all about his near-catastrophic spleen injury and his return last spring to help the Hershey Bears win a Calder Cup, here's part of the after-story: his weekend with the Cup happily coincided with his hometown village of Harris, Saskatchewan's centennial. And if you know anything about rural Canadian villages, you know that a 100th birthday demands one thing above all else: a parade.
"So we just made a float with the Calder Cup on it, and just kind of integrated it into the parade," Laing told me last week. "My dad drove the truck, then we put it on a quad trailer, couple seats in the back, put on some hockey sticks and a Hershey Bears flag. It was real small town, but it was a lot of fun."
Trust me, I know from village parades. Fredonia, NY used to have parades every other Wednesday, I believe. The floats in the Harris centennial celebration sounded familiar, too, other than the Calder Cup one: "there was a Legion float, a Lions float, a fire truck, then a veteran's float," Laing recalled. "The dairy farm had a float. One guy just drove his semi as a float. I guess semis are cool."
Heck yes they are. Harris, though, is way smaller than any village I've visited; we're talking about 150 or so people. The Laings aren't one of the village's two main families, but Laing still estimated they make up about 10 percent of the population. What does this mean for a Calder Cup/centennial parade?
"We did a lap of the town, and it honestly took about three minutes," he said. "So we had to do it again, just so it would take up a little bit of time."
Anyhow, people in Harris know hockey well enough that they knew from the Calder Cup and were excited by its arrival. People wanted to see how much it weighed, look at the names, take their photo with it. They brought it to their family barbeque. They took it to the museum. The real celebrity treatment.
(One more fact about Harris: It used to have a fabulous Chinese restaurant, "honestly the best Chinese food you've ever had," but it's hard to support a Chinese restaurant with fewer than 200 people. So the restaurant moved to a bigger town two and a half hours away, but its Harris customers remained loyal.
"People still drive up there just to get the garlic shrimp or the ginger beef or the sweet and sour soup," Laing told me. "It's unbelievable. Some people take empty ice cream pails there and fill em up with soup and they'll freeze it and have it for later."
Laing now lives in Saskatoon, the big city, about 45 minutes from Harris. His parents still live on a farm outside of town. But Laing appreciates the village, its people and its 100th birthday, which also included a 300-person ball, complete with a band, on Saturday night.
"Anybody who's ever lived there came back," he recalled. "The community is so strong, everybody just comes back for anything that's held there, so it's awesome."
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