The latest accomplishment in David Rutherford's decorated hockey career couldn't be more appropriate.
The 25-year-old from Ladner was given possession of the Kelly Cup for the weekend, thanks to his part in helping the Florida Everglades win the East Coast Hockey League championship back in May. The trophy is ironically the same name as his late father Kelly - a longtime minor hockey referee and volunteer who lost his battle to cancer exactly eight years ago. It provided Rutherford the perfect opportunity to invite an estimated 200 relatives and friends to the family property on Arthur Drive to help celebrate his dad's life one more time.
Perhaps the biggest smile of the party belonged to his mom, Tracy, another former longtime volunteer with South Delta Minor Hockey, who couldn't be in Florida when her son won the championship.
"This is mostly about (the trophy) being called the Kelly Cup and is more for my mom, family and friends than me," explained Rutherford. "The weird thing about it is last summer my mom and I for the very first time agreed to spread (my dad's) ashes out in the ocean.
"It just seemed really fitting that a year later something named Kelly was coming home. To see her smile today was just so uncanny."
Rutherford has made winning hockey championships a habit.
It all started as a 15-year-old call-up player with the Delta Ice Hawks and continued on to higher levels of junior hockey with the Surrey Eagles (BCHL championship) and the Spokane Chiefs (WHL and Memorial Cup titles). It continued in 2011 as a member of the Central Hockey League's Bossier-Shreveport Muddogs. Now he hopes his "Midas Touch" continues in the American Hockey League after just signing a two-way contract with the Charlotte Checkers - an affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes.
As much has Rutherford has enjoyed these long post-season runs, it's still about the burning desire of realizing his full potential and playing at the highest level possible.
He has been proving people wrong since his minor hockey days in South Delta when he was counted out for not being big enough or having the necessary speed to be a top level forward.
Rutherford is coming off the best season of his brief pro career, having posted 55 points, including 25 goals in 57 games with Florida. He added 12 points in 17 playoff games. He has rededicated himself to his off-season training, adding 20-pounds to his 5-foot-9 frame.
"I can't even tell you how many times I have been told I was too small," he smiled. "It's always in the back of my mind about trying to move forward. I find ways to keep winning but each year I keep getting a little better too.
"I made huge improvements to my game this past season and I think the opportunities are endless for me being in Carolina's system. We will see what happens but I have regrouped everything by changing my agent and (off-season) trainer. Everything seems to have fallen together."
Rutherford admits the best thing to happen to his hockey career was the day the Vancouver Giants traded him to the Spokane Chiefs. Up until that point everything was accomplished so close to home. It opened his eyes to another world.
Rutherford turned pro with the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL where he was traded before the season was over but met his current girlfriend and soon-to-be fiancé Stephanie Wilson. She has been by his side since and will be reunited with her family with Rutherford's career taking him back to Charlotte, except this time to play at a higher level.
"It almost took living on my own to really understand what my career needed," he said. "It's been whirlwind to say the least by I owe a lot for what (Giants GM) Scott Boner and (Giants head coach) Don Hay did for me.
"Stephanie and I have almost been together for four years and her family is pretty happy we're coming back there. A lot of girls like hockey players but the neat thing is she knows nothing about hockey."
What continues to drive Rutherford's career is the memory of his father and how he would be so proud today. That's what made Saturday's celebration so special.
"He gave me every opportunity to succeed," he added. "I think I would have made a few better decisions if he was still here but the greatest battle I learned was him fighting cancer. He was given six months and he made it six years. You need to know deep down if you want something or not."