Super Bowl XLII between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants is taking place in Glendale, Ariz., this weekend, which is not only the home of the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals, but the Phoenix Coyotes
In fact, the NFL is having a pre-game function at Jobing.com Arena, the Coyotes’ home, which leads to a question -- have any NHL players ever played professional football?
The answer is yes. Lionel "The Big Train" Conacher, who was Canada's Top Male Athlete in the first half of the 20th Century, was part of the 1921 Toronto Argonauts’ Canadian Football League team that won the Grey Cup. He played with the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Americans, Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Maroons between 1925 and 1937.
Annis Stukus played for the Argonauts from 1935-41 and was part of two Grey Cup victories in 1937 and 1938. Stukus eventually became the general manager of the World Hockey Association's Winnipeg Jets in 1971.
One of Stukus' Argonaut teammates in 1937 and 1938 was Roy Storey, better known as “Red” Storey, who was an NHL referee from 1950-59. In the 1938 Grey Cup Final, Storey rushed for three fourth-quarter touchdowns to lead the Argonauts to victory. Storey also played lacrosse and minor-league hockey, and later became a football official. He called games in both the NHL and the predecessor to the Canadian Football League until 1957. Storey might have ended up with the New York Giants had a knee injury not curtailed his football career.
It was as an NHL referee, however, where Storey made his mark. He was a colorful and charming character who had a story for everyone at all times. Super Bowl XLII referee Mike Carey may be in charge of Sunday's "Big Game,” but his job is limited to watching the activities between the two teams on the gridiron. The Vince Lombardi Trophy is of no concern to him and his officiating crew. When Storey refereed the Stanley Cup Final for seven-straight years in the 1950s, he had a second job. He was in charge of watching the Cup.
"We used the Stanley Cup to hold the chips," Storey said in 1994 about the time he and fellow official Bill Chadwick were in charge of Cup security and decided that the Cup would be a great place to store poker chips during a card game. "They make such a big fuss over it (the Cup) today, but to us it was something we had to take care of and we didn't want to. So we might as well put it to some use and throw the chips in there. It was not a poker game; we used to play cards, gin rummy and things like that. Anything we had that we didn't want to hold, we threw in the Cup.
"Don't forget, in 1924, in Montreal, it was won and the team … five of them were going up to this old guy’s house in Westmont, which is part of Montreal, and they had a flat tire and they all get out and fix the flat tire, they get in the car and go up to the guy's house and they forgot the trophy. They sat it down on the sidewalk, they went back at 3 in the morning and the trophy was still sitting on the curb.
"We were in the hotel. We looked after it in the hotel until somebody stole it or won it."
The Vince Lombardi Trophy is annually handcrafted by Tiffany & Co. and valued at $12,500. The Lombardi Trophy depicts a football in kicking position that is made entirely of sterling silver. It stands 22 inches tall, weighs seven pounds and takes 72 man-hours to craft at Tiffany & Co.'s workshop in Parsippany, N.J.
There are more than 41 trophies around in various places. The Lombardi Trophy is a good-looking piece of hardware, but there are no real stories attached to it. The Lombardi Trophy does not have the legacy; the NBA's Lawrence O'Brien Trophy is in the same camp, as is Major League Baseball's championship trophy.
On the other hand, the Stanley Cup was made in London, England, and in 1892 Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, Lord Stanley of Preston and son of the Earl of Derby, purchased the trophy for 10 guineas (about $50 at that time) to be presented to "the championship hockey club of the Dominion of Canada." When Lord Stanley donated the Cup in 1893, he appointed trustees to care for it. The main responsibility of the trustees was to maintain the rules, govern the competitions and ensure the Stanley Cup was awarded and returned in proper condition. It seems that proper condition is a matter of opinion.
After all, the trophy has been broken and repaired in auto body shops, dropped in the St. Lawrence Seaway by Kevin Lowe, thrown into Mario Lemieux’s swimming pool, kidnapped, used as a flower pot, kicked into the Rideau Canal, used as a dog food tray by Clark Gillies and been stuffed with hay so a thoroughbred race horse could have a meal at a Belmont Racetrack stall in Elmont, N.Y. Phil Bourque carved his initials inside the Cup.
The Lombardi Trophy usually ends up in a glass case, a couple of Major League Baseball’s Championship trophies sit under glass at Yogi Berra’s Museum in New Jersey and NBA trophies also end up under glass. Nice pieces of silverware, but lifeless. Not Lord Stanley’s mug – even at the ripe old age of 115, it has a full schedule of activities.
People act goofy when the Cup is around. If the Cup were a human being, it would constantly be at parties and dinners telling old tales.
"It's a fabulous item," said Storey. "You can see the way these players work in the playoffs, they are not working for the money, it’s that trophy and the ring that goes with it. Yeah, that is what you are born to do, and you are not satisfied until you have it."
Storey worked a number of NHL Finals, but to him, he just enjoyed going to Detroit in the opening round of the two-round playoffs of the 1950s. There will be no octopus-throwing playoff ritual in Glendale at Super Bowl XLII – other North American sports just never developed those traditions. Storey said he always looked forward to the octopus hitting the ice at Detroit's Olympia, a tradition which started in the 1952 playoffs when the owner of a local fish market, Peter Cusimano, threw one from the stands onto the ice. The eight legs were supposed to be symbolic of the eight wins it took to win the Stanley Cup at the time.
"When I was there, they only threw one octopus and that was in the first five minutes," he said. "It was the opening game of the playoffs and for eight years in a row, I had the opening game. If you look at the NHL records of those games, you will find out in the first five minutes there were no penalties because I used to drop the puck and go around and look for that guy because that thing would scare the hell out of you. It (the octopus) was a scary-looking thing, I'll tell you. … I had some strange objects thrown at me and that was just one of them.”
Storey never went near the octopus and relied on Red Wings defenseman Marcel Pronovost to clean up after Cusimano tossed it onto the ice.
“In the first five minutes, I wasn’t even looking at the game,” Storey laughed. “I was waiting for that bugger to throw that octopus.”
Storey was happy that other things tossed onto the ice didn’t become regular season or playoff traditions.
“Yeah, there has been everything out on the ice,” he said. “The worst was to see a false set of teeth on ice, you wonder how the guy is going to eat in the next week. This was Montreal. Another day a lady threw a pair of shoes at me. I broke them in two and wondered how she got home, it was about 20 below zero, and that was in Montreal.”
Storey was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1986. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1991, one of 5,268 people who have received Canada’s highest civilian honor. He died on March 15, 2006 at the age of 88, having left a lot of people laughing through the years by telling Red Storey stories.