Cup Game 1

Phil Pritchard and Craig Campbell, their white gloves, crested blazers, the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy were aboard an NHL charter Saturday in Edmonton, wheels up about 9 a.m. local time bound for Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

At touchdown scheduled for the late afternoon, bound for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers at Amerant Bank Arena (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC), hockey’s most coveted trophy would have flown about 12,000 miles during the Final -- nearly 20,000 kilometers for those on the metric system.

It's the first time the trophy has crossed the border between Canada and the United States five times in a series since 2011, when the champion Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks went the seven-game limit.

“It’s been one heck of a series,” Pritchard said with a laugh less than hour before the charter left Edmonton, having just seen the trophies through security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Pritchard is curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He’s also vice president of the shrine’s Resource Center and Archives, but to hockey fans, he’s the "Keeper of the Cup," the Stanley Cup’s most prominent historian, travel agent, tour guide, silver polisher and bodyguard.

Cup split

Phil Pritchard (left) and Craig Campbell at Edmonton International Airport Saturday morning with the Stanley Cup (bottom) and Conn Smythe Trophy, ready for one last trip to Florida. At right, two members of a ramp crew move the trophies to the NHL charter.

On the road since Game 3 of the Final has been Campbell, Pritchard’s long-time friend and colleague. The manager of the Hall of Fame’s Resource Center and Archives is familiar to fans as the other white-gloved Stanley Cup escort who walks the trophy out to center ice for presentation to the winning captain by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

The Stanley Cup has been on the road since June 6, Pritchard having been with it for all but Game 3 in Edmonton.

He shared the trophy’s remarkable itinerary, mileage indicated reasonably accurate estimates given how flights might deviate slightly from planned routes:

June 6: Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame colleague Bill Wellman, Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy fly from Toronto to Fort Lauderdale for Stanley Cup Final Media Day on June 7, 1,209 miles;

June 6-10: In Florida for Games 1-2;

June 11: Pritchard, Wellman, Cup and Conn Smythe fly from Fort Lauderdale to Toronto, 1,209 miles;

Cup 2023

Craig Campbell (left) and Phil Pritchard carry the Stanley Cup onto T-Mobile Arena ice on June 13, 2023, the Vegas Golden Knights about to receive the trophy after their five-game victory against the Florida Panthers.

June 12: Campbell takes the Cup from Toronto to Edmonton, 1,680 miles;

June 12-15: Cup in Edmonton for Games 3-4;

June 14: Pritchard takes the Conn Smythe to Edmonton;

June 16: Pritchard and Campbell (together the rest of the way with both trophies), fly aboard an NHL charter Edmonton to Fort Lauderdale, 2,550 miles;

June 16-18: In Florida for Game 5;

June 19: NHL charter Fort Lauderdale to Kansas City (for refueling), 1,491 miles;

June 19: Kansas City to Edmonton, 1,339 miles;

June 19-21: In Edmonton for Game 6;

June 22: NHL charter Edmonton to Fort Lauderdale, 2,550 miles;

June 22-24: In Florida for Game 7.

Two Cups

Craig Campbell (left) and Phil Pritchard with the original 1892 Stanley Cup, now displayed in the vault of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the familiar presentation Cup, in Ottawa in March 2017 as part of the trophy’s 125th anniversary celebrations.

Pritchard has made three commercial flights: to Florida for the start of the Final, back home to Toronto, then out to Edmonton for Game 4. He’s been a passenger on the NHL charter the rest of the way.

“Imagine the air miles!” Pritchard joked, adding that he’s more than happy not to have been claiming them.

“This changes your whole flight experience. The staff on the charters have been unbelievable, wonderful.”

The entire Final has gone almost without a hiccup for Pritchard, Campbell and their sterling travel companions.

Pritchard recalls the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins not even wanting to know the trophies were in Boston’s TD Garden -- no matter that their presence and presentation were guaranteed after Game 7, which was won by the St. Louis Blues.

“No issues at all this year,” he said. “Teams and security and the communities have been fabulous.”

Cup polish

Phil Pritchard (left) and Craig Campbell polish the Stanley Cup during Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Kings would win the trophy that night.

Again on Friday, Pritchard and Campbell had the Stanley Cup polished and ready for presentation to the Panthers, then put the Cup and Conn Smythe -- awarded to the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- back in their cases for one more trip to Florida with the series tied 3-3. With celebrating crowds choking the streets, it took them about half an hour, with a police escort, to cover the mile from Rogers Place back to their hotel, a drive that usually takes five minutes.

The Stanley Cup was in the spotlight’s glare even before the Final began in Sunrise, Florida; Pritchard and Wellman had the trophy on Amerant Bank Arena ice before the opening face-off, the Oilers and Panthers lined up on their blue lines.

For years, Pritchard said, he’s been talking to Steve Mayer, the NHL’s chief content officer and executive vice president, about a higher profile for the Cup before Game 1, to display what’s at stake.

“A new tradition? I hope so,” Pritchard said. “We’ve been talking to Steve about this. The Cup used to be on the ice in the 1960s before the Final began. In soccer’s World Cup, the players walk right by the trophy on their way onto the pitch. It’s so dramatic.

“I read a lot of positives on social media about the Cup being on the ice before Game 1, and comments of those who didn’t think it was right. I’ll say this: the first 10 minutes of Game 1, holy smokes, that was intense. Whether the Cup having been on the ice had anything to do with it, I don’t know.”

The Stanley Cup’s exact whereabouts after Game 7 on Monday are yet to be determined.

Phil 1993 Steve Poirier

Hockey Hall of Fame curator Phil Pritchard in the shrine’s Esso Great Hall, the Stanley Cup in the background, in 1993.

Should the Oilers win, Pritchard and Campbell will charter back to Edmonton with the champions, the Cup and the Conn Smythe, should the latter be voted to a player on the winning team.

Should the Panthers win, they’ll remain in Florida for the parade and related celebrations.

Then, a quick turnaround to get the trophies out to Las Vegas for the 2024 NHL Awards and the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft next week.

There’s also the matter of when the Stanley Cup is engraved with the names of the winners. Last year, at the request of Vegas Golden Knights president George McPhee, the Cup went to Montreal for engraving before being returned to the 2023 champions.

“That’s something I’ve tried to push for years,” Pritchard said of the prompt engraving. “It’s brilliant. Families get to see their names on the Cup when players and others have their day with it. That’ll be my request again and I hope that’s the case. I was thrilled that George wanted to do it. He said, ‘It makes sense, why would you not?’”

That will all be sorted out in the days ahead. For now, the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy will be locked in their cases, out of view.

“That’s it. We’re done. The trophies have no events the next couple of days,” Pritchard said. “You’ll see them both on Monday night at center ice.”

Top photo: The Stanley Cup at center ice of Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Florida, before Game 1 of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final, the starting lineups of the Edmonton Oilers (at left) and Florida Panthers on their blue lines.

Related Content