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St. George's Richard McDonnell excited about watching grandson Brett Connolly play for the Stanley Cup

Washington Capitals right wing Brett Connolly celebrates his goal during the second period of Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning on May 15 in Washington.
Washington Capitals right wing Brett Connolly celebrates his goal during the second period of Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning on May 15 in Washington. - Associated Press

Richard McDonnell isn’t a gambler by any means, but he’s thinking about rolling the dice in Las Vegas to pay for his exciting venture.

McDonnell, an 80-year-old native of St. George’s, is the proud grandfather of Washington Capitals forward Brett Connolly — whose parents Pat and Dawn (McDonnell) — are also from the west coast community.

Mcdonnell, along with Pat and Dawn Connolly, are heading to Las Vegas on Saturday to cheer on Brett’s pursuit of the Stanley Cup with Game 1 of the best-of-seven final scheduled for Monday in Las Vegas. The expansion franchise is poised to hoist the coveted prize in its first year of existence while the Capitals are looking for glory in only their second Cup final appearance, the last one being in 1998.

“I don’t know if I’ll do it but I’ll give it a crack,” McDonnell said Thursday about the possibility of being a lucky guy in Las Vegas.

McDonnell watched the Capitals earn a berth in the final with a dominant 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lighting in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final Wednesday night in Florida.

He was anxiously watching every shot and pass, but midway through the game he felt confident his grandson was going to play for the Cup with the Capitals pressing the play and the Lightning unable to get anything going in the way of offence as Braden Holtby recorded his second-straight shutout of the series to seal the deal.

His phone began ringing Thursday morning at 6 a.m. and it continued throughout the morning as friends and family sent their congratulations and asked to send on best wishes to Brett.

It was a time for him to smile and realize that something special was happening and he was excited about seeing it all unfold.

“It’s wonderful. I consider myself to be very fortunate. How many people get to do this?” he said.

He is close to his grandson. He travelled to British Columbia when Brett was living out west and he always fit in a trip during the summer months if Brett wasn’t going to be home because he had lots of time on his hands as a school teacher.

He still speaks with him on the phone and they text back and forth to talk hockey and get caught up on what’s happening in each other’s lives.

It’s a time for the family to celebrate. His whole family has been avid supporters of the young man coming up through the ranks and that’s even bigger and better now that Brett is four games away from winning the Cup.

He has watched Brett play for the Lightning when he began his NHL career and he’s watched him live and on television every game he’s played with the Capitals.

Seeing him perform on the big stage in a place like Las Vegas seems surreal for him, but he’s going to soak it all up knowing the chances to play for the Cup don’t come along every day.

More importantly, he’s 80 years old and knows the window is closing on how many more games he will get to watch and enjoy with somebody dear to him one of the main characters on the stage.

He was happy to see his grandson advance and the fact that the road to the Cup left his former team behind wasn’t lost in all the excitement.

“I can tell you that he was pleased to be able to do that because they (Tampa) traded him,” he said. “He’s happy at this moment, but in the NHL you have to learn that you can be happy but tomorrow you can be traded and that’s the way it goes.”

Being a Capital sounds pretty darn good right now and he’s going to be there to cheer on his favourite player right to the final buzzer no matter what the scoreboard says.

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