On The Road
Chronicling the Travels of the Stanley Cup
By Alex Nseir
The Stanley Cup is the most unique and recognizable trophy in professional sports. It is the oldest trophy competed for by athletes in North America and the only one where the names of all members of the winning team are engraved on it. Throughout its long history, the Cup has scaled mountains, traveled across seas, and been the focal point of countless parades and gatherings of the NHL's greatest champions.
The trophy itself is a celebrity, more famous than the majority of players whose names are etched on it, and its exploits and travels have been chronicled in countless books, articles, rumor and legend.
From the moment Sidney Crosby lifted hockey's Holy Grail at center ice in Detroit this past June, he set off an annual summer of celebrations that allows every member of the winning team and its management to spend a day with the prize.
of the Cup
Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, Lord Stanley of Preston, donated the Cup, originally just a silver bowl with gold lining, to Canada in 1892 to be competed for by the country's hockey clubs. The Montreal Amateur Athletic Association first won the trophy in 1893.
Stanley originally intended that only amateur hockey teams compete for the Cup, which happened until 1910 when the National Hockey Association took control of it. After the NHA became the National Hockey League in 1917, NHL teams competed against other pro-league teams until 1926, by which time the other leagues folded. Since then only NHL teams have competed for the Stanley Cup.
The tradition of carving players names on the Cup began when members of championship teams started scratching their initials on the silver bowl. Eventually rings were added at the bottom to accommodate all of the names and the Cup grew. Over 2,000 names have appeared on the Cup at some point but to keep the Cup from becoming too large, rings need to be removed to make room for new champions
"Every 13 years a ring get removed from the Cup and only the 5 big bands at the bottom of the Cup will be removed," said Phil Pritchard, who has been touring with the Cup for over 20 years with the Hockey Hall of Fame. "The first winners will always be on the Cup - actually up to 1927 will always be on the Cup. When a team wins the Cup, depending on the year, they will be on it for 52-65 years."
This tradition is part of what makes the Stanley Cup so special. Players who win can see and hold a constant, tangible reminder of the Cup's history and past champions.
"Every time I am fortunate to travel with the Stanley
Cup it is memorable. I love all of it. However, I would trade
anything so I could win the Cup and someone would bring it to
me instead, but this is a close second."
-- Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame.
Keepers of the Cup
"Cup Cops," "White Gloves" - whatever you'd like to call them, aside from Pritchard, there are four other Cup chaperones - Craig Campbell, Mike Bolt, Walter Neubrand and Bill Wellman - and they all play a vital role in keeping the Cup safe.
"As the game grew so did the demand for the Stanley Cup," Pritchard said. "We are there for travel, public relations, respect and of course security. But at the end of it all, we make the player's day a lot easier and a lot more memorable."
The NHL decided to appoint official Cup guardians in 1995 for a number of reasons.
"In the summer of 1993 we started talking with Commissioner Bettman and his staff on how to make winning the Stanley Cup as important as it is," Pritchard said. "During the finals in 1994, we walked the Cup onto the ice for the New York Rangers on the red carpet with the white gloves on and the following summer every player had the chance to take the Cup home for a day."
Over the years, there have been a few instances where Prichard and other Cup guardians have had to say no to strange player requests.
"Blake Sloan from the Dallas Stars asked me about sky-diving. He really didn't want to do it, he just wanted to see our answer," he said "His day with it was great, just outside of Chicago. Most of the players respect the Cup, what it is and what it stands for. They would never do anything that would disrespect the Cup, the game or their team."
This is a trophy that has supposedly been urinated in by the 1940 New York Rangers, abandoned in a cemetery by the 1903 Ottawa Silver Seven, left to drown in Mario Lemieux's swimming pool in 1991 and placed onstage at a strip club in Edmonton. After spending time with the New York Rangers in 1994, dents and cracks in the Cup had to be repaired. It might not be a coincidence that the "Keepers of the Cup" arrived after the exploits of that Ranger team.
This is certainly not to deny that players who win the Cup respect what it stands for and the grinding and often painful journey it takes to win the trophy. Once won, however, there is no reason they can't have fun with it.
When asked if he has a favorite team that he would like to have the opportunity to take the Cup to, Pritchard, who grew up and still lives in Burlington, Ontario, said he has no preference.
"We have a saying that we only hang out with winners, so it really doesn't matter who wins," he said. "The guys, the team are always great to hang out with as I guess in a way we become part of their team for the summer."
"There are lots of Cup stories out there and they
happen everyday. I am sure if the Cup could talk it would be a
Stanley Cup Travels
The Stanley Cup is a VIP. It has been to the Kremlin, visited George Bush and Bill Clinton at the White House, and appeared as a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Meet the Press with Tim Russert. It parties with celebrities, from Lindsay Lohan to William Shatner and everyone in between.
The Cup is whatever the winners want it to be: a chalice for cheap champagne and beer, a cereal bowl, a pet's food dish or a baptismal font. Hockey fans can find books filled with the uses for and travels of the Stanley Cup.
It has logged 400,000 miles in the past five seasons alone. While the globe-trotting prize fans recognize now travels about 250 days a year, the original Stanley Cup bowl, along with retired rings, actually doesn't travel at all. It was retired, many guess between 1962 and 1970, and remains in Lord Stanley's Vault in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The bowl at the top of the current Cup is an exact replica.
The trophy is quite the do-gooder as well, having raised millions of dollars for charity.
"The travels of the Cup obviously include a lot of charity work for various charities and minor sports organizations," Pritchard explained. "One of them is the Hockey Fights Cancer program. I would guess probably 150 events a year are dedicated to a charity."
Despite all of the celebrity friends the Cup makes and high-profile events it attends, the most meaningful and special times with the Cup happen during its travels with the people who win it. This could simply include, and often does, a parade in a player's hometown and time spent with their closest friends and family.
"As we look at it, the team is a lot more than the players on the ice," Pritchard said. "The team includes parents, siblings, friends and coaches, so to bring the Cup back to those people is important."
Pritchard also revealed that sometimes players spend un-supervised time with the Cup.
"Some personal things, like taking it to a loved-one's gravesite (can be done without a Cup chaperone," he noted. "It is a very private and powerful moment."
Whose name is on the Stanley Cup the most times?
"Henri Richard as a player won it 11 times with
the Montreal Canadiens. However, Jean Beliveau, who was a player
and management with the Canadiens, won it 17 times. Not a bad
The Montreal Canadiens, hockey's most storied franchise, have won the Stanley Cup a record 24 times. They won the most Cups in a row - five from 1956-1960 - and captured the championship 15 times in 24 years from 1955-1979. Another Original Six team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, comes in a distant second with 13 Cups, although they have not won since the League's first expansion in 1967.
Former Penguins Coach Scotty Bowman has the most appearances on the Cup for a coach. He won nine during his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens.
While the Pittsburgh Penguins may not be seen as one of the finest franchises in NHL history yet, consider that only 17 active NHL teams, a little more than half of the league, have won the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh is among the more exclusive group of 12 that has won multiple Cups, and one of six teams, including the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils, not in the Original Six to win more than one. Not bad for a small-market team in a football town.
"I took (the Stanley Cup) to my cottage in Peterborough,
Ontario and enjoyed it with friends and family. Then I slept with
-- Bob Errey, Stanley Cup Champion with the Penguins in 1991 and
with the Penguins
So far this summer with the Penguins, the Cup took another dip in Mario Lemieux's pool, was part of a victory parade that attracted more fans than the Steelers Championship celebration in February, attended a Pirates game at PNC Park and went fishing on Lake Michigan with rookie coach Dan Bylsma.
Sidney Crosby celebrated his 22nd birthday with the Cup. The day included a trip on a Canadian military helicopter, Light Armored Vehicle and a vintage fire truck, a visit with Canadian soldiers and their families as well as young patients in the IWK Health Centre, and a boat and jet ski cruise around Halifax Harbor. Brooks Orpik took the prized trophy to his parents' house in Cohasset, MA for a celebration with nearly 90 of his closest family and friends and veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who won his first Stanley Cup after 14 years in the NHL, spent his day with his loved ones on Fisher Island, Florida, three miles off-shore of Miami.
Stanley Cup celebrations with each player will go into September and the Hockey Hall of Fame will chronicle every player's journey with Stanley Cup Journals on their website.
the Chalice in Pittsburgh
The Penguins' lightning-fast turnaround from the bottom of the league in 2006 to champions in 2009 happened faster than many thought possible. Former Penguins and current announcers Bob Errey and Phil Bourque could give the younger Penguins some advice about keeping their achievement in perspective.
"I would tell the young guys to not expect it to ever happen again," he said "Enjoy the moment, you deserve it. Keep the hunger that led you down the path to the Cup. Have fun and realize you all did it together."
"The goal is not to be satisfied," cautions Bourque. "Once training camp rolls around you have to take the experience and confidence gained by winning the Cup. If you rest on your laurels...nothing good can come from it."
Bourque also noted that Penguins general manager Ray Shero did an excellent job of keeping the core of the team together for the most part.
"For these Penguins I don't think they have the same challenges that a lot of teams have," he said. "I think that eliminates one big hurdle -- the change of personnel."