Every winter, thousands of youngsters from the double-runner crowd up through high school age flock to Maine’s ice arenas.
Parents have to roust some of them from a sound sleep so they can get to the rink in time for an early-morning practice or game. Some return home from late games, not long before bedtime.
Those kids involved in travel programs pile into their vehicles with a duffle bag full of stinky hockey gear and traverse the region each weekend in search of the next on-ice challenge.
The early mornings, chilly waits in the bowels of the state’s older arenas and the even smellier ride home after games are all part of the experience.
Brian Dumoulin grew up playing hockey in Maine. He came up through the youth ranks in his hometown of Biddeford and helped the Tigers win consecutive Class A state championships in 2007 and 2008.
On Sunday night, Dumoulin enjoyed a magnificent moment for any hockey player, but more so for one who grew up in Maine.
The rangy defenseman hoisted the coveted Stanley Cup after he and his Pittsburth Penguins teammates beat San Jose 3-1 to win the National Hockey League championship at SAP Center in San Jose, California.
The 24-year-old Dumoulin is a history maker. He is believed to be the first player born in Maine to win a Stanley Cup.
It is an accomplishment so rare that even the most talented and confident skaters whizzing around Maine hockey rinks scarcely dare to dream that it could ever come true.
And while the odds of home-grown hockey players achieving what Dumoulin has done is minute, he has nonetheless opened the door for Mainers to dare to set their goals at the highest level.
Finally, winning a Stanley Cup and playing in the NHL are attainable aspirations — under the right set of circumstances.
Dumoulin has made a name for himself as a defensemen. It’s the position where he can best take advantage of his 6-foot-4, 207-pound frame.
Ironically, it is that same rangy body that some coaches and scouts might initially have felt was a too skinny, not strong enough, or a tad too slow. He has improved his skills, maintained his passion and has considerable good fortune.
Dumoulin went out on top as a Maine hockey player with the championship at Biddeford before moving on to the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs. He then attended Boston College, winning national titles with the Eagles in 2010 and 2012. He was a Hobey Baker Award finalist as a senior.
Dumoulin’s road to the Cup took a few turns. He was drafted in the second round, 51st overall, in 2009 by the Carolina Hurricanes.
He never played for the organization, since after leaving BC he was traded in June 2012 to Pittsburgh as part of a deal that sent Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes. After two seasons with with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the American Hockey League, Dumoulin appeared in 14 NHL games from 2013-2015.
This season, he solidified a spot on the Penguins’ blue line. He appeared in 103 games, posting two goals and 22 assists.
On Sunday night, although as one of the younger members of the Penguins he had to wait his turn, Brian Dumoulin held the Stanley Cup above his head. No Maine player had ever done it before.
But if you ask Pete and Deborah Dumoulin, Brian’s parents — who got up early and spent countless hours in the car and inside Maine rinks — they might tell you that one day, another Mainer will.