Canton’s Cotter bringing Stanley Cup back to his hometown

 Canton’s Cotter bringing Stanley Cup back to his hometown

Canton native Paul Cotter raises the Stanley Cup following the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ triumph over the Florida Panthers.

The National Hockey League’s iconic Stanley Cup will be making an appearance in Canton later this summer — courtesy of Paul Cotter, a member of the NHL champion Las Vegas Golden Knights.

A treasured NHL tradition, each member of the Stanley Cup-winning team is allotted an opportunity to bring the 131-year-old trophy to their hometown for a day.

Cotter, who attended Workman Elementary School, Discovery Middle School and Salem High School for two years before moving to Brookings, South Dakota, to play junior hockey for the North American Hockey League’s Brookings Blizzard, said an exact date for the Cup’s Canton arrival isn’t set in stone yet, revealing “probably in about a month.”

“I’m going to take it to a dealership for some pictures, then have a private party with friends and family at a golf course somewhere, then maybe take it to a bar so people can come see it,” said Cotter, 23, whose rookie season in the NHL ended with 13 goals and five assists in 55 games.

“This past season was a crazy year. Our team was so close-knit, it made it easy for me considering it was my first year in the league. We had some older guys on the team who were leaders; I was one of the few young guys, so I had to grow up pretty quickly.”

A star is born

Paul Cotter is pictured during his pee wee hockey days
Paul Cotter is pictured during his pee wee hockey days

Cotter’s initial go-around with hockey turned into a hate-love experience.

“When I was young, my family was driving home from church one day (in Canton’s Central Park subdivision) and my neighbor was playing street hockey in his driveway,” Cotter recounted. “I said, ‘Hey, I want to try that’, so my parents (Paul and Lisa) were like, ‘OK, we’ll sign you up.

“But I hated it from the start. It was awful. But my parents were like, ‘You know what, we paid for it, so you’re going to finish the session.”

By the time the session was over, Cotter said he was buzzing around the ice at a pretty good clip.

“I thought to myself, ‘I think I’ll stick with it’,” he remembered. “And I’ve loved it ever since.”

Reaching elite status

Although, at 16, he was the youngest player on the Blizzard, Cotter blossomed into a star, registering a team-high 60 points.

Paul Cotter pulls on his Las Vegas Golden Knights sweater after being selected in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft
Paul Cotter pulls on his Las Vegas Golden Knights sweater after being selected in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft

“A few NHL teams reached out to me with questionnaires to fill out, which was cool,” Cotter said.

“The next year for Lincoln (Nebraska, of the United States Hockey League) I started at the bottom and worked my way up. I started hearing from more NHL teams and college hockey programs wanted me to commit.”

Joined by his parents and siblings (brother Jack and sister Mileena) in Dallas, Cotter was drafted by Las Vegas in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

“It was such a blur, I don’t remember much about my name being called,” he said. “It was kind of like scoring my first NHL goal and raising the (Stanley) Cup.

“Right after all three of those things happened, I was thinking, ‘Did that actually just happen?’ I don’t remember a lot of details, but they were all special.”

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Following three seasons in the American Hockey League (one with the Chicago Wolves and two with the Henderson Silver Knights), Cotter made his NHL debut on Nov. 9, 2021, against the Seattle Kraken.

He played just seven games that season before breaking out during the 2022-23 campaign and steadily earning a bigger role with the Golden Knights.

During the NHL season, Cotter lived in Summerlin, Nevada, a suburb he said reminds him of Birmingham, Michigan.

“Las Vegas is amazing,” he said. “There’s always something to do, always something new to check out. You can’t beat the weather.

“The city is so passionate about the Golden Knights, too. You see bumper stickers everywhere, people wearing Golden Knight hats and shirts — even if they don’t know what it is. We get recognized just about everywhere we go … people pay for our meals. It’s awesome.”

Cotter revealed Canton has at least one recreational attraction Vegas doesn’t.

“There is no putt-putt (golf) in Vegas,” he said, smiling.

Cotter, who will turn 24 in November, said he wouldn’t be where he is today without the support of his family.

The Cotter family
The Cotter family

“I owe pretty much everything to my parents and God,” he said. “Everybody has heard about the early mornings parents have to go through for their kids in youth hockey; well, that was my parents.

“They got me to a position — connecting me with the right people and the right camps — where I didn’t have to do much more than work really hard.”

Cotter isn’t the only athletic star in his family.

His dad was a standout wrestler, his mom was an Olympic-caliber gymnast, his brother is a member of the Greater Ontario Hockey League’s Leamington Flyers, and his sister is a highly-recruited high school lacrosse player who has committed to play at Syracuse University after she graduates from Salem in two years.

“I know my family is proud of me and I’m proud I’ve been able to represent them like I have,” he said. “I try to be a good role model for my siblings.”

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