VANCOUVER -- The Stanley Cup arrived at Rogers Arena roughly 3:30 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday. Cup-keeper Phil Pritchard looked calm, tie knotted and ready to help hand out the most treasured trophy in sports.
But that’s today. There was a bit more drama and logistical sweating during Tuesday’s transcontinental Cup journey from Boston to Vancouver.
The Cup was in a Boston hotel Monday for Game 6 but never transported to TD Garden due to the Bruins’ big early lead. So chalk it up as an uneventful Game 6 night for Pritchard and the Cup-keeping crew.
Tuesday more than compensated. Pritchard and the Cup were delayed flying to Toronto from Boston due to overcast skies. There appeared no chance at making a connecting flight from Toronto to Vancouver.
Air Canada staffers had other ideas. To begin, they held the plane. Then the Air Canada employees sprung into a Hall of Fame shift.
"Air Canada made it all work," Pritchard said. "I understood the timing to be would not make the connection. But the Air Canada people on board said, ‘Bear with us, we’ll see what we can do.'"
Pritchard said two Canada Customs agents and an Air Canada representative met the Cup and its keepers at the gate in Toronto, quickly escorting Pritchard and crew to a side door where their luggage, the Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy were already waiting on a Customs cart. A police escort on the airport grounds weaved through other planes, taking Pritchard and colleague Craig Campbell to the Vancouver-bound plane. The luggage and trophies were placed in a special cargo spot and the humans with hardware made the flight.
In Vancouver, Air Canada representatives met the Cup and crew to reach a special side exit to avoid media (at the airport to cover the airline’s strike and aware the Cup was arriving).
"We went out a different exit, got our bags and they took us to the rental car location,” said Pritchard, a Hockey Hall of Fame employee who has traveled with the Cup for years. "It was all amazing. I think everybody is a hockey fan.”
Certainly, some of those Canuck fans are superstitious along with hockey players. Pritchard said the Air Canada officials in Vancouver did not want a look inside the Cup case to see the silver symbol, nor take pictures with it.
"They said they want to see it if the Canucks win," Pritchard said, "but not before the game tonight."
Obviously there's a lot of expectations around me but it's something I try not to focus on. I'm just trying to go out there, be myself on the ice every day, try to get better, be myself around the guys in the locker room. I think that's what's made me successful and the person that I am.
— Sabres forward Jack Eichel on transitioning from college hockey to the NHL