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Trevor van Reimsdyk's perseverance led him to a Stanley Cup

One moment, one decision, one leap of faith can change your life.

Six years ago, Trevor van Riemsdyk was excited to watch his older brotherJames van Riemsdyk-- the second overallselection in the 2007 NHL draft -- achieve his dream of becoming a professional hockey player as James prepared for his rookie season with the Philadelphia Flyers. At the same time, Trevor, a high school senior, was contemplating whether he had a future of his own in hockey.

"After going to [the University of New Hampshire] for a couple games to watch James play, I wanted to play college hockey and be part of that environment, but going through my junior and senior year of high school, I had a little bit of interest from some D-III schools, but I had to seek out those opportunities myself, and there weren't any D-I programs really interested," Trevor said.

"So, I had a real difficult decision to make after high school. I had pretty much convinced myself that I was going to go to a good D-III school and get a good education and go into business and let that be it. Then, I got invited to play in this showcase tournament."

The Chicago Showcase -- now called America's Showcase and sponsored by USA Hockey -- was designed to give high school players from around the country the opportunity to be seen by junior coaches.

"He had been an all-state player for a couple of years and had some success and someone said to him, 'Hey, look, why don't you go to this showcase tournament in Chicago? There will be a lot of people there watching and you just never know,''' explained his father, Frans.

"Trevor wasn't quite convinced it would be worth it and really wasn't interested in having to go through the trouble of flying out there with all his equipment and stuff, but he realized he had nothing to lose and decided he'd go out there and see what happened."

It was only two years before that Trevor began to take hockey seriously and treat it as something more than just a game. When James was drafted, it lit a fire in Trevor as he saw that the dream of playing in the NHL could be a reality, rather than something they dreamed about while playing two-on-two in the basement or driveway.

James was always a talented player and had every opportunity to develop his skills as a member of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program. He got the best training possible and traveled the world, bringing home various world championship medals before he turned 18. Trevor was not provided those same opportunities, and he knew that if he wanted to achieve an NHL dream of his own, the road would be longer and full of extra effort.

"I remember waking up one night that summer and hearing this clanging coming from the basement," Frans recalled. "So I tiptoed downstairs and there's Trevor carrying weights up and down the basement steps, working out in the middle of the night, because he just didn't want anyone to know that he was thinking about giving this hockey thing a real try."

Until then, the dream had always been to win a state championship for their high school, Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, New Jersey. After watching James go from high school player to scholarship player to No. 2 overall pick in just two years, however, Trevor started to dream a bit bigger for himself.

Those dreams nearly died when he didn't attract a single scholarship offer to play college hockey, or even any interest as a recruited walk-on.

"I tried to talk to some coaches and they just weren't interested," Trevor said. "No fault of theirs. I was just a skinny kid who played high school hockey in New Jersey and I played double-A. I didn't even play triple-A. So, I completely understood why they were saying no, and while I didn't want to give up on the dream, I also didn't want to waste time chasing something that was out of reach. I wanted to make a good decision and my parents just encouraged me and said, 'If you think there's even the slightest chance that this could happen, you should go for it and have no regrets.' So, I went to Chicago for this tournament."

He knew he had something special in him, if only he could get someone other than his parents to see it, too. He wanted to take one last opportunity at the Chicago Showcase to see and be seen. It was a decision that changed the course of his hockey career and, ultimately, his life. Trevor was was named MVP of the tournament and caught the eye of several junior coaches.

"I made a really good connection with one of the coaches there and he convinced me that it was worth giving it another year and to play junior hockey and not write off a career in hockey just yet," Trevor said. "He had a lot of confidence in me and I was willing to trust him and keep going after the dream."

Soon after, he decided to play the following season for the Junior Monarchs in Manchester, New Hampshire, and committed himself to a summer of training with James, trying to soak up any information he could.

"You think you're eating healthy and then he tells you that there's a whole other level of healthy and you just step everything up," Trevor explained. "Even when James would skate, he'd do it with all these other college and pro players and they'd invite me to tag along, and just having the opportunity to see where you measure up against them and being able to see what it takes to get to where you want to go. I had a huge advantage having James on my side."

Not even halfway though his first season with the Junior Monarchs, college coaches started to show interest. When UNH called, it didn't take Trevor long to say "yes."

"My goal was to play D-I, and when the tables turned and it wasn't me asking them if I could play but rather them asking me if I wanted to play, I jumped at the chance," he said.

But Trevor didn't just want to play, he wanted to be an impact player and hopefully catch the eye of NHL scouts. He stayed another season with the Junior Monarchs before joining the Wildcats as a 20-year-old freshman, and his goals were simple: contribute in any way, earn more ice time and be relied on in key situations.

He did all of that and then some, earning All-Rookie Team honors his freshman season, becoming an All-American as a sophomore, and a point-per-game player as a junior until a broken ankle ended his season in January. With only four more classes needed to graduate and NHL teams wanting to sign him, Trevor decided to forego his senior season and sign with the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I've seen all the work he's put in and the long road he's taken to get where he is and he deserves a lot of credit," James said. "There were a lot of people who thought he should have just gone and played D-III, but he stuck with it and showed what he could do, and just to see all the doors he's opened for himself and the opportunities he's played his way into, it's definitely been exciting to watch and I couldn't be more proud of him."

The past 18 months have certainly had their challenges, from healing that ankle, to the daunting task of trying to crack a stacked Chicago blue line, to earning more ice time, to recovering from a broken kneecap only to break a bone in his wrist just three games after his return.

"Injuries are no fun," Trevor said. "There are a lot of long, dark, lonely days when you're trying to recover and work your way back, and then to have to do it one right after the other like I did this year, I thought my season was over, but they kept winning and I kept rehabbing just in case they needed me. I knew it was a long shot, but I wanted to be ready. It was definitely tough, but for it to end up like this, I'd do it all over again."

Just shy of two months after surgery to repair his broken wrist, the Blackhawks were set to start the Stanley Cup finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After all the rehab, Trevor was well enough to start practicing with the team, and before Game 3 he heard the words he had been waiting seven long months for: "You're in."

A week later, after playing four games in the finals, the dream that he nearly gave up on six years before came true as the Blackhawks defeated the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup.

"I think back to that day a lot, actually. Anytime my rehab got tough or if I'm having a bad day, I just think back and remember that there was a time -- not that long ago -- when I didn't think any of this was possible," Trevor said.

"It's crazy to think that I was this close to giving up and I didn't, and look how far I've come. I mean, my name will be on the Stanley Cup. Forever! That one decision to give it one more try, it changed my life and it reminds me to just keep going and never give up. Whatever it is, just don't give up."

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