The following is an excerpt from "One Goal III: The Inside Story of the 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks." The book goes on sale Tuesday, Nov. 10 at all Blackhawks Store locations or shop.nhl.com.
|(Photos courtesy Phil Pritchard) |
After three championships in six seasons, you could hardly begrudge the Blackhawks for beginning to regard the Stanley Cup as a relative—perhaps that favorite aunt or uncle who regularly drops in, bearing expensive gifts. Lord Stanley’s renowned chalice may not be able to reciprocate those feelings, but its beloved protectors can.
“Here we are for the third time with the Blackhawks,” said Hockey Hall of Fame Vice President and Curator Phil Pritchard. “Three great summers with the same Cup keepers each time—we like to think of ourselves as part of the family now. Hopefully the guys can do it again. If they do, we’ll gladly be there.”
Pritchard and his merry band of globetrotting guardians offered an oral history of the travels, tradition and transcendence of the greatest trophy in sports.
Phil Pritchard: My first Cup trip was 1988. I had gone to school and interned with the Ontario Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League, and then I got recommended for the Hockey Hall of Fame. My first or second day on the job, our boss said, “The Stanley Cup needs to go to a charity event north of Toronto. Does anyone want to go?” And nobody’s volunteering, so I kind of put my hand up.
We actually did the first player day with the Cup in 1989. Colin Patterson, Calgary Flames. That, too, was kind of a fluke, and like a lot of things in hockey, it just evolved into a little tradition. So what Colin Patterson started in ’89 has become a tradition for every team and every player since ’95.
The 1995 New Jersey Devils were the first group of champions who got a day with the Cup, per a mandate from recently appointed National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman and the trustees of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Bettman and the league recognized what the Stanley Cup meant to not just the players, “but families, friends, fans, all of that,” says Pritchard.
Walt Neubrand: I graduated with a teaching degree but couldn’t find a job, so in 1995 I started at the Hall of Fame, working the rink zone and tickets, stuff like that. After a couple years, Phil asked me if I wanted to be a keeper. “You start this weekend. You’re going to Scotty Bowman’s house.”
Bowman, currently the Blackhawks’ senior advisor to hockey operations, was celebrating his seventh Stanley Cup as a head coach and the first of three he would win with the Detroit Red Wings.
Mike Bolt: I was able to do Scotty Bowman’s 2002 Cup day, and it never gets old, spending time with a legend like him. He’s as big a fan of the game as anyone out there. He’s got such an amazing collection of memorabilia and artifacts that going into his basement might be one of the coolest tours outside of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Neubrand: I was being so careful to not go over the speed limit on the expressway [from Toronto to Bowman’s home in Buffalo] because I didn’t want to crash and ruin the Cup! I’m just sitting there thinking, “I’m on my way to Scotty Bowman’s house. Only the winningest coach in NHL history.” And we’re still taking it to him. That’s the funny part.
It was an easy day. He just had it in his backyard and people came and looked, and then we took it out for a ride in his old car. I was done by like 7 p.m. “Well, that was a piece of cake,” I thought. Little did I know how long and involved these days would get.
Bill Wellman: I think most guys will tell you that planning your Cup day is worse than planning your wedding. They always say the second time around is so much better because the first is just a blur of activities that you barely remember. The second isn’t necessarily scaled back, but you’re a little bit more relaxed knowing that everything is going to go fine. This third time for some Blackhawks—that’s a rare luxury. They get to learn from their past experiences and change it up.