She liked hockey well enough. Not the rough stuff, but if her son was involved in
any way, she was all in.
So, back in July when the Tampa Bay Lightning were playing for the
Stanley Cup, Chris Kitamura was upstairs in the bedroom of her Hamilton home
watching every minute of every game. Where she could be nervous alone.
“I could hear her yelling,” laughs her husband, Yosh.
She was rooting for the Lightning because her boy is a scout for the team.
Rob Kitamura has worked his way up from a low-paid bird dog for the Barrie Colts
to the head of Ontario Hockey League’s Central Scouting Department to the pros.
If the Lightning wins, he wins.
So, she cheered for them.
When they won the Cup the first time in the summer of 2020, she was elated.
When they made it back-to-back championships a few months ago, it was even
“She was proud of Robert,” Yosh says.
With good reason. Few make it to the place her son has. Fewer still win a
championship ring, let alone two, which, by the way, are a pair of baubles so giant
and so covered in diamonds they have to be specifically protected.
“It’s tripled my house insurance,” Kitamura says.
He’s not kidding. They really have.
On top of everything, few get their own day with the Stanley Cup.
The well-known tradition says everyone on the winning team gets a day with the
big silver mug. Except during the lockdown season, that had to be cancelled.
So, he and the family missed out the first time. This year, he was supposed to have
his day in August but it had to be delayed.
Anyway, his visit — the very last guy in the organization to get one — was moved
Just before 6 p.m., Kitamura’s 10-year-old son triumphantly rolled the giant box
containing the trophy into Chedoke Arena. Then Wyatt got to be the coolest kid in
town for a couple hours as he hosted his Hamilton Huskies U11 team for the
greatest show-and-tell in history. The kids and their families got to look at it up
close, touch it and take photos with it. Not to mention try on the two gigantic rings.
Honestly, what could be better that being the kid whose dad did this?
“And I found five bucks in the penalty box,” Wyatt says. Even better.
It was a terrific night. There’s magic in this trophy, there really is. Nobody can not
smile when standing next to it. And nobody didn’t. It was joyous.
Kitamura stood on the periphery and wore his own smile as he watched
everything unfold. He turns 50 in a couple months, yet he admits it’s impossible
not to feel a kind of childlike giddiness about the whole thing. And a warmth about
being the author of such a moment.
After a couple hours, when the last of the players had left — and a few from some
other Huskies’ teams since Yosh has been heavily involved with minor hockey in the
city for over four decades — it was time for the family to have a few special
minutes alone with it.
To reflect, is how Kitamura describes it. About all those games and practices they
shared in freezing rinks when he was a kid. About all those miles driven and bad
cups of coffee he’s consumed searching for talent. And about the roughly 300 days
a year he’s on the road now doing the hard and often thankless work of a scout.
And, honestly, to cry a bit.
Because back in October, his mom suddenly fell ill. Two weeks later, she was gone.
Her husband dabs his eyes as he talks about meeting her when he was a
16-year-old at Central High School and she was 15, about their 54 years of
marriage, about her years as an educational assistant with the public school board,
and about how everything good about their kids came from her.
She would’ve loved this night, he says. Loved it. She couldn’t be left out.
So, when nearly everyone was gone, Yosh gently lifted her urn out of a bag and
placed it carefully on the table beside the Cup. Close enough that it was almost
touching the trophy and the black vessel was properly reflected in the polished
There was no way she wasn’t going to be there, Kitamura says.
“Dad wanted to let her see it.”