MONTREAL -- It had been almost three decades since the Stanley Cup had come to visit the NHL's Montreal offices, most recently dropping into the League's former headquarters in the historic Sun Life Building in November 1990.
Hockey's ultimate prize came calling again for four hours on Tuesday, this time to the League's offices on McGill College Avenue. To say that the trophy caused a commotion with an excited staff would be a grand understatement.
Mike Bolt of the Hockey Hall of Fame, for 20 or so years the Stanley Cup's globetrotting, encyclopedic travel agent/tour guide/bodyguard, arrived from Toronto mid-morning with the trophy in its steel case, loading it into a taxi at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport.
Hockey Hall of Fame's Mike Bolt with the Stanley Cup on the road in Philadelphia last February.
"I told the cab driver what was in the case, and I don't think he clued in," Bolt said with a laugh. "He helped me load it into the car and I told him, 'Now you can tell people you helped lift the Stanley Cup.' But I don't know that he knew what the Stanley Cup is, even after I told him we were going to the NHL offices."
If the Cup looked rested, that's because it had enjoyed a rare day off on Monday, relaxing in its locked case in Bolt's dining room after having returned to Toronto on Sunday from a Rogers Hometown Hockey appearance in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
After its quickie visit to Montreal on Tuesday, the Cup will have Wednesday and Thursday off before heading back out on the road -- to Chicago on Friday, New York on Monday and Tuesday, then to Boston and back to Chicago for a minor-league tournament before returning to its Toronto base on Dec. 23.
Then it's back on the road for most of the next six months.
"The Cup heads right out after Christmas," Bolt said of the trophy, which will be a featured attraction at the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic being played at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. "Then it will go 100 miles per hour right till the Stanley Cup Final. Once the New Year starts, we're booked for appearances about 25 days every month."
Rosa Troiano, the NHL's senior manager of account services and accounting in Montreal, spoke to the right people to facilitate the Cup's visit, and she met Bolt at the front door of the building Tuesday when he rolled the case inside shortly before noon. She also was the first to see the trophy and photograph it when Bolt, wearing white gloves, lifted it from its case.
By the time Bolt had rolled the Cup back downstairs after 4 p.m., it had been photographed hundreds of times by NHL staff, family members, friends, League partners and a handful of employees of other companies on the same floor who caught wind of the visit. Add to them the two courier drivers who couldn't believe their good fortune when they walked through the door, one after the other, arriving for delivery and pickup, leaving with photos of themselves with the Cup.
Miniatures of many trophies, usually displayed in the lobby, even joined the Cup for a boardroom portrait, with Montreal's eastern skyline in the background.
"It's a nice treat for everyone in the office," Bolt said just after the visit got underway. "Hopefully, they'll bring some friends and family and share Lord Stanley with as many people as they can. Any time you come to Montreal, you've got to love the backdrop."
Displayed behind the Cup for a time during the visit was a classic image of iconic Canadiens captain Jean Beliveau, whose Montreal funeral coincidentally was five years ago to the day. Beliveau's name has been engraved on the silver bands of the Cup a record 17 times -- 10 as a player, seven as a senior vice president of the Canadiens. Even with the retirement of a Cup band 14 months ago, removing champions from 1953-54 through 1964-65, Beliveau's name still can be seen 11 times on the barrel.
Audrey Harari was six months into her career at the NHL's Central Registry in Montreal in 1990, three years before Beliveau's final championship as a Canadiens VP in 1992-93. She recalls the Cup arriving that Nov. 23 to spend some time in the League's boardroom in the Sun Life Building, the location of NHL headquarters from the 1930s through the late 1970s, and of offices that housed some of the League's operations until being relocated to their current address in 1992.
Harari, today the manager of systems with Central Registry, cherishes a photo that was taken of herself with the Cup 29 years ago, so much so that she re-created the pose on Tuesday.
"It probably meant more to me seeing the Cup today," she said after the trophy had begun its trip with Bolt back to Toronto. "I didn't study the names on it back then, but I spent more time doing that today. It was amazing. Awesome."
Which pretty much summed up the sentiments of everyone who got the chance to get up close and personal with the Stanley Cup.