June 11, 2008

Welcoming Lord Stanley

Last week I found myself following Stanley Cup Playoffs and checking stats regularly on TSN. If you know me, you know that I'm not a sports guy. Despite my brief stint as a stringer sports reporter for the Booster last fall, athletics never held my interest. Until now.

The main reason I was following these particular Playoffs was a source of patriotic pride (that, and for the fights). Detroit Red Wing #11 Dan Cleary is from Riverhead, Newfoundland and Labrador. His NHL roster dossier says he was born in my hometown of Carbonear - but raised in the small community of Riverhead. As the Playoffs progressed and the Wings racked up the wins, anticipation of victory binded Newfoundlanders and Labradorians together across the country and the world, via Facebook and satellite TV. When the Wings defeated the Pens in Game #6 with a 3-2 win, claiming the Cup, Dan Cleary and Riverhead became household names.

Despite its legendary status in the hockey world, the Stanley Cup has been the victim of many beatings and abandonments by the teams who coveted it. The following are just a few bizarre incidents I learned about while researching its history.

After the Ottawa Silver Screen won the Cup in 1905, one of the players claimed he could kick it across the frozen Rideau Canal. He drop-kicked it into the canal, and the team went on to party somewhere and left the Cup behind. They remembered the next morning and recovered it.

After the Habs won the Cup in 1924, they went to Leo Dandurand's home for a champagne party. The car with the Cup had a blowout and the occupants left it on the road while they stopped for repairs. They somehow forgot about the trophy and drove off without it. They retraced their route and found it where they left it.

Clark Gillies of the 1980 New York Islanders allowed his dog to eat from it, and fellow Islander Bryan Trottier took the Cup with him to bed.

When the Oilers won the Cup in 1987, Mark Messier put it on stage with a stripper at the Forum Inn. He also took the Cup to various clubs and let fans drink from it.

The abuse ended in 1994. After the New York Rangers won for the first time in 54 years, they went beserk with it. I don't have the room to list what they did to it, but according to Sports Illustrated it "was carried from bar to nightclub to ballpark to ballroom to racetrack to squad car to firehouse to strip joint." The NHL had enough by this point and gave the poor Stanley Cup its own security force.

I assume one of these "Cup Cops" will be accompanying the big trophy as it travels to Newfoundland and Labrador for the first time this summer. I hear that there's a big party planned for its arrival as Cleary takes it home.

Welcome to Newfoundland and Labrador, Lord Stanley.