|The Stanley Cup was a big hit among the flock of media on hand, serving as a prop for pictures and video segments, or just being stared at longingly by journalist after journalist.
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Nestled in a corner of the room, out of the sightline of most of the players, was the Stanley Cup – the trophy the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings will begin fighting for Saturday night in Game 1 at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio).
The Stanley Cup was a big hit among the flock of media on hand, serving as a prop for pictures and video segments, or just being stared at longingly by journalist after journalist. But the players professed ignorance when informed that the object of their desire was looming less than 50 feet away.
“Do you think it’s weird that the Stanley Cup is here?” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was asked.
“Here?” he said incredulously.
“Yes, here as in right behind you,” he was told as he craned his neck to look over a group of reporters to see the Cup.
“I didn’t know it was here,” he said.
But he tried to remain unfazed by the new knowledge.
“It’s the biggest trophy that a hockey player wants to win and it’s great to see that,” Letang said.
Variations of that theme were thrown out by both Penguin and Red Wing players.
Tyler Kennedy was informed that the trophy was right over his shoulder.
“I’m not going to look until I win it,” he said with a smile.
Detroit’s Jiri Hudler also wasn’t that interested in turning around from his position to take in the Stanley Cup.
“You want to win the Final, so the motivation is there,” Hudler said. “It’s not a time to think about it or touch it. It’s a great trophy. You just don’t touch it if you don’t win it.”
And that is where most players Friday drew the line. They were willing to look at it, but nobody was willing to venture too close to the mythical trophy, which sat atop a table like hockey’s version of Excalibur, waiting benignly for a team to prove itself worthy of lifting the trophy above its head.
“I don’t think it’s bad to look at it,” said Pittsburgh forward Georges Laraque, who played in and lost a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final two years ago while with Edmonton. “It’s bad to touch it. You don’t want to touch it until you win it. You look at the trophy you want to win, but I’m not going to get close to it.”
That had to be music to Hal Gill’s ears. By virtue of his position in the room, he couldn’t help but look right at the Cup, unless he turned his back to the crowds, which is not an advisable practice at media day.
So, he made the best out of it.
“When you get to this point, I think it’s only natural that you start thinking about it,” said Gill, noting that he has been chasing the trophy that sat less than 50 feet away for the better part of the past dozen years.
But, it is that ability to put all thoughts of the Cup out the thought process that might just define who will win this Final series. The collection of players best able to focus on the task at hand and not what awaits if they are blessed to raise the Stanley Cup trophy in triumph will have the upper hand in this battle of wills.
Just ask Ken Holland, the Detroit GM, who has won three Stanley Cups and lost another during his time with the Red Wing organization.
“I didn’t even see it in there,” Holland said. “Hopefully, the next time I see it, it’s on the ice and we’re accepting it. I remember in 1995 when we played New Jersey, we were 12-2. We really kind of rolled through the first three rounds of the playoffs. All of a sudden in four games, you’re out. It happens quick. I understand it’s a best-of-seven, but the series goes quick. You’ve got to be ready to go Game 1.”