Gibsonia's Saad celebrates as Stanley Cup champion
Brandon Saad almost never shows emotion and even kept his cool while skating with the Stanley Cup on Monday night.
But moments later, as Saad patrolled the busy TD Garden ice in Boston, the 20-year-old found his parents and brother. Finally, the kid from Gibsonia let out a roar before the four embraced.
“What a special moment,” Saad said.
His story is pretty special, too.
The son of an engineer from Syria is about to become the first Pittsburgh-born, Pittsburgh-trained hockey player to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
Saad's father, George, left Syria to attend Columbia University. He later transferred to Pitt and probably would have steered his sons — George, who played last season at Penn State, and Brandon — toward his first love, soccer.
But George Saad saw something after moving to Pittsburgh that changed his mind.
“I came to Pittsburgh as a young man,” George Saad said, “And I saw Mario Lemieux play hockey.”
One glimpse of the Penguins legend changed the Saad family forever.
“I fell in love with the sport after I watched Lemieux play for the first time,” Saad said. “And later, after the boys were born, we got them involved in the hockey because of Lemieux.”
It quickly became apparent to George Saad that his youngest son possessed a special ability for hockey. So he took advantage of the first hockey boom in Pittsburgh — the Lemieux boom — by having Brandon trained by local coaches.
A decade later, the Sidney Crosby Boom in local hockey products is coinciding with a number of locals reaching the NHL, with Saad now the face of that group.
“Brandon always had a special drive,” George Saad said. “Always. And when he helped Team USA (the under-18 team in 2010) win the gold medal, I knew he had a chance to make it to the NHL.”
Saad was drafted by the Blackhawks two years ago this month in Minnesota. He slipped to the second round largely because he had played the 2010-11 Ontario Hockey League season with an injured groin that had limited his production.
It appears that initial predictions pertaining to the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, which pegged Saad as a top-five pick, were accurate.
He finished third in Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) voting, played regularly with Chicago stars Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa and was a key figure in his team's victory against the Bruins.
“There was never a day that Brandon didn't dream of playing in the NHL,” George Saad said. “It was truly unbelievable to see him with the Stanley Cup. It was just incredible for us to be there.”
From Syria to Pittsburgh, and finally, that unforgettable night in Boston, the Saad family was there to see Saad make history.
Only 20, he is a champion. And while Pittsburgh youth hockey is already very much a rising force in American hockey, Saad gave the growing movement its signature moment Monday.
“What a great party we're going to have when we have the Stanley Cup at home in Pittsburgh,” George Saad said.
His normally quiet son, who is tremendously proud of his Pittsburgh heritage, showed some emotion again when thinking about the Cup coming to his hometown.
“Just a storybook way for my first season to end,” Saad said. “I'm so happy.”