Usually a glittering backdrop to the annual Stanley Cup Final Media Day, the historic trophy was at the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, a day earlier having blazed a 200 mile-per-hour lap at the legendary Brickyard with racing icon Mario Andretti on the 50th anniversary of his 1969 victory.
But even if the Cup wasn't at TD Garden, it was featured on countless banners and posters and signs around the building, and it was in the thoughts of those who will play for it beginning with Game 1 between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blues series coverage]
"The best thing about the Stanley Cup, for me, is growing up wanting to win it," said Blues forward David Perron, who played in the Cup Final last season as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Perron was on the losing end of a five-game series to the Washington Capitals last year, and he's hoping for a better outcome now.
"When you're a kid, playing outside, that's the best time in your life," he said, remembering his youth in Sherbrooke, Quebec. "Right now, it's so close that we get the real shot at the Stanley Cup. But dreaming about it … the Cup makes people dream, it makes them stay up late at night in different time zones. For me, that's what hockey is all about."
Across the room sat teammate Jaden Schwartz, a native of Wilcox, Saskatchewan, whose 12 goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs lead all players in the Final.
"Like any kid in Canada, especially in Saskatchewan, you always watched the playoffs," Schwartz said, staring into the lights, cameras and notebooks. "I was a big Colorado (Avalanche) fan -- Joe Sakic was my favorite - and I used to watch a lot of their games. You got excited for that time of the year. I never really imagined being here, so it's a dream come true, for sure."
Media Day is a proverbial turkey shoot. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and coach Bruce Cassidy, and their counterparts from St. Louis, Doug Armstrong and Craig Berube, took part in formal, standing-room-only news conferences. Built around those events were two practices and four informal interview sessions with players from each team, who sat at eight pods scattered around a room to share their thoughts and recycle the things they've been saying since the playoffs began.
The Stanley Cup's absence probably didn't bother the Bruins in the least. They're apparently not keen about the trophy being in their arena at any time unless it's being presented to them on Garden ice or a past championship season is being celebrated.
But everywhere you looked, the trophy was on two-dimensional display, huge banners featuring captains and players with previous winners hoisting, hugging and kissing the Cup.
Schwartz wasn't even entirely sure that he has seen trophy in person, but he's impressed by it.
"The history of it is pretty awesome," he said. "You look at some of the big-time players who have won it. Every kid watches it growing up. I think I might have seen it at the Hall of Fame in Toronto. … I used to idolize, growing up, the guys who have won it. You see pictures. It's exciting knowing that we have a chance to do it."
Perron wouldn't be pinned down on which name engraved in the five silver barrels is the most compelling to him.
"I'm going to look at them all if I finally win the trophy," he said with a grin. "And I really hope I do."
It was shortly before their scheduled 11 a.m. practice that the Bruins were lined up for portrait photos, individually striking a few serious, even grim-faced poses in front of backdrop. But Boston forward Jake DeBrusk had a good time with it, wearing a winter hat with a Bruins logo and furry earflaps that he called "The Tuukka" in honor of Finland-born Boston goalie Tuukka Rask. DeBrusk would still be wearing it when he met the media in sessions that began shortly before noon.
The massive scrum for Bruins forward Brad Marchand was worthy of the headlines that he seems to make, or be in the middle of.
Quizzed about what he thought you could fill the Stanley Cup with, Marchand replied, "Cinnamon Toast Crunch, a baby and plenty of alcohol."
Equally offbeat was the question to Marchand about which "Game of Thrones" character he most resembles. The villain Cersei was his first reply, which he then changed to Ghost, the more sympathetic direwolf.
All in good fun, because Media Day is not about stirring the pot or providing the opponent with dressing room pin-up material; it's about reflection, keeping things light, and keeping a collective eye on the puck, providing all the material needed for the final setting of the table before face-off of Game 1.
"It's a team sport," Rask said, which was a revelation to no one.
Players even cut promos with Sunny, known here as Stanley Pup for NBC's "The Today Show," in training to become a guide dog. It's likely, though unconfirmed, that Sunny is the only four-legged credentialed media representative for the Final.
As the banners and signs came down in the mid-afternoon, the Stanley Cup was less than a day away from being in Boston. If the Bruins had their way, it would arrive under cover of darkness, in a laundry hamper under a pile of jerseys.
Fresh from the Indy 500, hockey's holy grail will be on public view before and during Game 1 at a free outdoor concert and viewing party at Boston's City Hall Plaza, a half-mile from TD Garden. And a day after Media Day, the guest of honor won't be giving any interviews at all.
Listen: Stanley Cup Final preview episode of NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast