My date with Stanley

Apr 202003
Authors: Reed Saunders

Been meaning, for some time, to tell you all about a summer day nearly two years ago.

Timeliness is all the rage with journalist-types, I know, but they’re just gonna have to deal. This is a story that needs telling, as it involves what probably was the least-deserved moment of my life.

It was the moment I put my hands in the same space the digits of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy and countless others had once occupied.

No, not a run-in with a late-’80s NHL groupie.

In July of 2001, I got to hold the Stanley Cup. Never before or since have I felt more unworthy.

Colorado assistant coach Jacques Cloutier, like every member of the Avalanche, got his day with the Cup late that summer and planned to throw a large bash at his home in Parker, Colo.

Much like college, any party with the Stanley Cup demands alcohol. Cloutier asked the Avs whom he might contact with Coors (the official beer of the Avs) about providing frothy beverages for his party.

Enter my dad, who coordinates Coors’ sponsorships listed above.

In exchange for the beer, Dad suggested Jacques let his family come see the cup before the party. Four wahoos wanting to see the Cup in exchange for roughly $500 worth of beer? Tough choice.

So it was, we set out at roughly 8 a.m. for the 30-minute drive to Parker, armed with two gigantic coolers of beer, a couple rolls of film and extra pants in case we soiled ourselves.

The new idea was to make our time with the Cup become our annual family Christmas photo. Dad even had a sign printed up: “I saw Mommy kissing Stanley Claus.”

Arriving in Jacques’ driveway, the butterflies really started to flutter.

We dropped off the coolers (which must have weighed 100 pounds each, I kid you not), made our introductions and small talk with Jacques and his family and then proceeded into the living room where we saw it – Lord Stanley’s gift to the world.

At first, it’s like the really hot girl coming into a bar. You want to stare and ogle, but part of you turns away. It’s seeing the Venus DeMilo, the ceiling of the Vatican and Stonehenge all rolled into one big, tasty burrito of sporting immortality.

A few things you should know about the Cup:

1. A Hall of Fame representative is with it at all times, like the Secret Service with the President. Our guy was a tall, young, foreign man who I believe introduced himself as Art Vandelay. OK, I can’t remember his name.

2. Sum-bitch is HEAVY. Probably 35 pounds. No sport makes you earn its trophy more than hockey, where, if you’re fortunate enough to win its most coveted prize, your first reward is a workout.

3. Names of every player, coach and towel boy ever to win the Cup are inscribed on its outer rings. When room runs out, older rings are removed and put into the Hall of Fame.

4. It’s been through a lot. The top of it isn’t exactly a perfect circle and you can tell it’s got more mileage than your ’89 Civic. It’s been used for jello molds, baby-washing, and probably the inanimate member of a threesome at some point.

In essence, this is the coolest trophy in all of sport. There is no other. There are at least 37 Super Bowl trophies in existence, countless World Series and NBA championship trophies.

There is one Stanley Cup.

Which means when you get your chance to touch it, all the history of hockey comes rushing through your veins.

When we took the cup out to the back porch to take our photos, followed closely by the Hockey Hall of Fame guy, I got to carry it out. Just didn’t feel right. I didn’t deserve this.

This point was further driven home when, immediately after I raised the Cup over my head, the HOF rep looked at me straight-faced and said in a thick, eastern European accent, “Yu jould not do dat.”

Talk about a buzz-kill.

My idiocy did help me realize how lucky I was. Sure, countless people have touched that Cup, maybe done obscene things with it. But it’s THE Cup.

And how many people can say they were yelled at by a foreign Hall of Fame rep for holding it wrong?

Reed is a senior journalism major.

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