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NHL

Pittsburgh-born Saad savors his day with Stanley Cup

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 9:06 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh native Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks hoists the Stanley Cup as he arrives at a celebration at the Cider House in Gibsonia where Saad brought the cup to share with friends, family and neighbors on Thursday.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh native Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks carries the Stanley Cup as he arrives at a celebration at the Cider House in Gibsonia where Saad brought the cup to share with friends, family and neighbors on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh native Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks and his girlfriend, Alyssa Wozniak, 20, put a puppy named Bella in the Stanley Cup during a celebration in Gibsonia where Saad brought the cup to share with friends, family and neighbors on Thursday, August 22, 2013.

Brandon Saad posed for pictures with friends and family Thursday, the Stanley Cup by his side.

His father, George Saad, just smiled and shook his head.

George Saad left Syria as a young man to attend college in the United States and has stayed here ever since. Watching his 20-year-old son with the Stanley Cup was the culmination of a lifetime of hard work for the Saad family.

“God bless America,” George Saad said. “It's the only place on Earth where you can chase your dreams, and your dreams can come true. And honestly, this whole year has been like a dream. And for Brandon, it came true.”

Saad, the first Pittsburgh-born and -trained player to win the Stanley Cup, did so in his rookie year with the Chicago Blackhawks.

He finished third in Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) voting two years after being selected in the second round by the Blackhawks.

Surrounded by more 100 than friends and family members Thursday night, the reserved Saad, a Pine-Richland product, finally was able to open up while posing for pictures beside sports' most famous trophy.

“I'd be lying if I said this whole thing wasn't more than a little surreal,” Saad said. “But it's great.”

Those close with Saad often joke about how quiet and private he is.

He didn't seem to mind the attention Thursday, though.

“I'm sure his parents had to convince him to have a party,” cousin John Humenik said. “He's always been quiet. Really, it's a testament to his family. They have always kept him grounded. I don't think all the fame will ever hurt his character. He's just a good, good kid.”

Saad's day with the Cup was a modest one.

He picked up the silver hardware at the Pittsburgh International Airport early Thursday morning, then met with family members at his cousin's lake house.

“Took it out on the boat,” he said. “Had some Wheaties (in the Cup) this morning for the breakfast of champions.”

After hosting a three-hour meet-and-greet with friends and family, he was planning on a quiet night with the Cup. Even though he is 20 with a long NHL career surely awaiting him —and the Blackhawks could be poised for greatness for many more seasons — Saad isn't taking the championship for granted.

“Not at all,” he said. “Some guys play their whole career and never get this chance. I realize that. I'm so grateful.”

Saad said he will remain in Western Pennsylvania for a few more weeks before returning to Chicago.

The Blackhawks play a preseason game at Consol Energy Center this season and then March 30 — in a game that will be televised nationally in the United States and Canada — Saad will play a regular season game in Pittsburgh for the first time.

Of course, he already had a pretty nice homecoming Thursday.

“Everyone is happy for him,” said Billy Bartelt, his billet from his Ontario Hockey League days in Saginaw, Mich.

“He was such a nice kid the two years he lived with us. So quiet, so respectful. He's never changed.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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