The dream of seeing it hoisted high above your captain’s head lies dormant for the majority of the season. But the moment your team of choice makes it to the playoff run, the inert animal, becomes a shark, a bear, a hawk and the ferocity you may have lacked during regular season envelopes you.
A select few win it, while a larger fan base lives vicariously through the triumphant team each season; relishing in the photographs and stories that follow hockey’s holy grail throughout the off-season. The name alone evokes an avalanche of emotions to any lover of the game. The act of winning it, ceremoniously bonds players to a piece of hardware, compiled of rings, that marries you to the history of the game.
The Stanley Cup is arguably the most impressive trophy in all of sports. It has probably kissed more babies than every U.S. President combined and seen more of the world than many of us will see in ten lifetimes. It is a symbol synonymous with the game itself. With a busy social calendar, the cup and it’s keeper attend a vast array of events throughout the year. If you’re lucky, you’ll glimpse it, take a photo with it, travel to Toronto to visit it at the Hockey Hall of Fame, or see it hoisted through the crowd at a parade. You can never get enough Stanley.
Some of us will never get to see the Stanley Cup in person, that fact remains true. And for those of us lucky enough to encounter it more than once, the excitement never ebbs, the memory never fades and each encounter is just as impressive as the last.
Spoiler alert; I’m essentially in a relationship with Stanley, six dates over the course of ten years is pretty serious. Especially since I hear he only commits to one player per day throughout the summer. Talk about a serial dater, eh? Stanley has ultimately been good to me, we’ve met up in a lot of places and seen a lot of faces. Because it’s the Cup, I’ve ultimately forgiven him for breaking my heart last season, but we’ll get to that later. Somehow throughout my time in the hockey world, Stanley always seems to find me and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Date 1: Boston Bruins Wives Carnival, the Cup and my parents car
Long before I was a hockey journalist, I was simply a hockey fan. A Massachusetts native, the Bruins have always been my home team. When I was younger, the team hosted a wives carnival to benefit the Bruins Foundation. For multiple years, my entire family would volunteer at the carnival. Each of us divided up and assigned to different booths, different players, different games.
Each year the excitement was unbearable as I awaited my location for the day. Photo booth with the clowns, video games with Milan Jurcina, Rock Band with Mark Stuart, shooting on the goalie with Tuukka Rask, Jordan Sigalet and the Moulson Canadian goalies. The experience and ability to give back was priceless.
The final year that I volunteered brought my greatest memory of all. Assigned to assist with autographs, I was placed with Ray Bourque, Cam Neely and Bobby Orr. But it was the fourth member of the group that had me falling in love at first sight, Stanley. It was on that day I had my first date, that I didn’t play by the rules, that I kissed the cup, and I liked it.
But that wasn’t the only encounter that Stanley had in store for me that day. As most of you know, Stanley has a friend, they rarely leave each other’s sides — I’m talking about his keeper. When you’re paired up for an entire day at a charity event, talking is inevitable and hearing countless stories from Mike Bolt was a once in a lifetime experience. As the day wound down, it was brought to my attention that the Cup’s original ride back to the hotel would be tied up with foundation events for the remainder of the evening, leaving both Mike and Stanley without transportation. You better believe I offered up my parents’ car and chauffeuring services faster than Steven Stamkos could score on a breakaway. That night, the Keeper of the Cup and Lord Stanley himself piled into the back of my parents station wagon for a ride back to their hotel. Stanley, the people’s trophy.
Date 2: A June Affair, the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins and the 2011 NHL Awards
Fast forward a few years. Stanley didn’t call, and he didn’t write and he never even came close to visiting Boston. But my second date with Lord Stanley was one for the record books, literally, as Zdeno Chara hoisted the Cup over his head in a Game 7 win over Vancouver. It was in that moment, I knew that Stanley would be heading back to Boston as the Bruins became the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions. Those few days after the win, Stanley was seen everywhere, by everyone, myself included. The city of Boston, as a whole, rejoiced in the excitement and glory that only the Cup can bring. In June of 2011, Stanley was a staple in Boston.
But as the local celebrations ended, and players dispersed, the Stanley sightings did as well. But everyone knows he can’t miss a party, heck it’s reported that their ‘ain’t no party like a Cup party’ and we met up again in Vegas for the NHL Awards in mid June. Stanley made an appearance with Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas, then kindly shared his presence with a multitude of NHL fans as he was set on display for all to see.
Our second date, Stanley didn’t disappoint.
Date 3: 2012 NHL All Star Game and the Cup squared
In 2012, the NHL All Star Game faced off in beautiful, sub-arctic and snowy, Ottawa, Ontario. It was here that I unknowingly encountered Stanley for the third time. That is, at NHL Fan Fest, my excitement and recognition automatically fell to the enormous replica of Stanley that consumed the stage. Rudely, my eyes passed over my favorite piece of hardware, as I stood gaping at his much larger brother. Bigger isn’t always better and as I crashed the stage in an attempt to photograph the impostor, I was face to face with the original in all his glory. For the third time, I was enamored with the beauty and poise of the Stanley Cup.
Date 4: 2012 NHL Awards and the Red Carpet fit for a Lord and a King
In retrospect, our fourth date should have been expected. I was primed and ready to see Stanley yet again, as I touched down in Vegas. Having been in the presence of greatness three times prior, I knew that strolling into the hotel and catching a glimpse of Stanley would be a piece of cake. It had been at the awards prior. Walking into the player media availability, camera ready, I was greeted with a table full of hockey’s greatest trophies. The Vezina and Conn Smythe shined bright before my eyes, glancing at the table there was one notable absence, Stanley. Feeling as though I had just been stood up, I shuffled away, reassured by the fact that tomorrow would be another day…
The red carpet at the NHL Awards is hectic, players filter in and out speaking with the media before walking the carpet into the theater. Oilers Eberle on the right, Bruins Bergeron to the left, Erin Andrews strolling past the both of them, there’s a lot to take in. When you look left, look right and glance back to your left and see not only a King in Dustin Brown, but a Lord grasped between his fingers, it’s an impressive moment.
If the red carpet date wasn’t exciting enough, I got to spend some quality time with Stanley later that night when he hosted an after party. Our fourth date skated in the right direction, and held an appearance from my NHL Network idol Kathryn Tappen; Stanley knows impressive people.
Date 5: Hockey Hall of Fame, and the bucket list
In a long distance relationship, sharing the travel time is necessary. If you’re keeping tabs, Stanley had now met me twice in Boston, twice in Vegas (although once was an extension of his Boston trip) and once in Ottawa. It was time for me to make an effort and visit Stanley’s home, the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Last spring, the Bruins faced off against the Maple Leafs in a well fought first round run and I headed across the boarder.
Listen, if you haven’t been to the Hockey Hall of Fame, put it on your bucket list. Stanley’s home is impressive, the history, the magic, it’s breathtaking. Taking in everything that not only the HHOF, but the city of Toronto has to offer is a must. Visiting Stanley on his home ice was even more impressive than I had expected.
Our fifth date was magical and awe inspiring.
Date 6: Stanley Cup Final, the Blackhawks and a realization
All good things come to an end and my last date with Stanley was bittersweet. Trying to remain unbiased is hard, especially when Stanley is involved. As the seconds wound down, my heart grew heavy with trepidation. The sound of the final buzzer, the gasps from the crowd and the sight of the Blackhawks spilling over the boards were a painful end to a series laced with sweat, tears and blood.
Unable to contain my emotions, my face lined with misery, I waited, I waited for the inevitable. And as all inevitable moments do, it came and I finally remembered to breathe. Gazing upon the ice from atop the Garden, I watched as Jonathan Toews raised Stanley high above his head, beginning his journey around the ice, from player to player, foe to foe.
Stanley, the cheater, the heart-breaker, no longer my love.
Following procedure, I shuffled to the elevator and waited in a sea of media, awaited my turn to walk onto the marred, ruined ice and watch as the wrong team celebrated their victory.
And then I saw him, floating across the ice on a wave of hands, basking in the arena lights and echoing the cheers of fans, family, friends. It was in that moment that my heartbreak washed away and the magnitude of the situation took center ice. How many times can you say you’ve been on the ice when a team won the Cup?
While my heart ached for Boston, a city that had overcome so much in the shortened season, win or loss, they remained united. I realized that I had been lucky enough to encounter on numerous occasions, the one thing that unites all hockey fans, the one thing we cheer for every season, the one thing that every player dreams of. In that moment, I fully appreciated what one trophy can truly encompass and the respect that it garners, that it commands, that it receives. I welcomed the Blackhawks and their accomplishment, the right they secured to call Stanley their own.
On my sixth date, I gave my heart to Stanley.
Perhaps on date seven, he will find a way to return the sentiment.