SOMEONE WANTED to actually strap the Stanley Cup to his back and jump out of an airplane with it. (That is, along with a parachute.)
But the Hockey Hall of Fame had some understandable problems with that. Though the Hall likes to give the winner of the vaunted Cup some creative leeway with which each executive, coach and player is allowed to celebrate with it, it was not viewed as prudent to allow someone to yell "Geronimo" and skydive with a 35-pound trophy under his arm.
Someone else wanted to photograph it at the bottom of a swimming pool. Again, this did not seem in keeping with what the Hall had in mind when, in 1995, it began permitting the winning team to have some fun with the Stanley Cup. While it inadvertently has ended up in pools through the years, Mike Bolt, one of the caretakers of the Cup, said that "chlorine is really bad for it."
"So you do say no once in a while," said Bolt, who is in his 11th year of accompanying the Stanley Cup around the world. "But at the same time, you want everyone to enjoy themselves. The Cup has had quite a few adventures through the years."
Because the Blackhawks can clinch the Stanley Cup in Game 6 against the Flyers tomorrow evening at the Wachovia Center, the 119-year-old Cup will be on hand at the arena in the event that a presentation is necessary by HHOF curator Phil Pritchard. Given 100 days to spend with the Cup during the summer, either the Blackhawks or the Flyers will coordinate a schedule of events for the trophy with the HHOF. Anyone designated to spend a day with the Cup is asked to fill out a form outlining the plans he has for it, which generally include displaying it back in their hometown.
The HHOF tends to say "yes," even if the request is unusual.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he wanted to go water skiing with it.
"What?'' Bolt said.
"No, no, I want to keep the Cup in the boat," said Babcock, in an effort to clarify. "So I can see it while I am water skiing."
Bolt replied, "Oh yeah. No problem."
Interestingly, the Cup seems to spend a lot of time in aquatic settings, either poolside or in the bow of speeding boats. Some have taken it on fishing expeditions and posed with it holding up the catch of the day. Penguins star Sidney Crosby strapped it on the back of a jet ski and took it on a spin around a lake. In order to protect it in the event of some mishap, the Cup was placed in a lifejacket, which Bolt said would enable Crosby to "get it quickly before it sank."
Scanning a section of the HHOF website called the Stanley Cup Journal, which chronicles the itinerary each summer of the winning organization, one is left with the impression that each year the players and others try to come up with even more inventive ways to spend their days with the Cup. Scott and Rob Niedermayer, of the 2007 Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, were dropped with the Cup by helicopter on top of Bull Mountain in British Columbia. New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur hauled it into a movie theater and let his children eat popcorn out of it.
Whatever you can pour into a cup has been poured into the Cup. Generally, the beverages tend to be champagne or beer. There are scads of photos on the HHOF site of players tippling from the Cup. But Penguins player Mark Eaton let his wife, Dorrie, whip up an ice cream sundae in the Cup, while the Red Wings' Kris Draper filled it with cereal. Some have placed their babies and even girlfriends inside. But none has surpassed Red Wings player Dallas Drake, who sprinkled feed in it and served one of the horses on his family dairy farm.
One would think the Cup gets scratched up, given the handling it has received.
Bolt concedes that it has gotten "the odd nick."
"Since it is out in public every day, accidents do happen," said Bolt, who is one of four caretakers who take turns traveling with the Cup as it passes from one member of the winning organization to another. "You just have to let them know to be careful."
Shipped from place to place in a sturdy case, the Stanley Cup generally flies commercial and is placed aboard planes with the checked baggage. Bolt says it has occasionally missed flights, but when it has, the airlines have called him and said, "Mr. Bolt, the Cup is not here. But we know where it is and it is on the way." When he has had to report it absent himself, he said the baggage agent is apt to say, "Oh my God!" and begin tracking it.
Bolt added that "the airlines do a great job."
The Stanley Cup has undergone physical changes through the years, and now is composed of a bowl, three tiered bands, a collar and five rings. On each ring there is room enough for 13 teams, with the inscribed name of every member of the organization. The winning team this year will be on the Cup itself for 59 years, at which point that ring will be retired to the HHOF in Toronto. Bolt said it could be "the hardest trophy in sports to win," given that the champion has to endure an 82-game, regular-season schedule and win 16 games in four rounds of playoffs.
He added that it is always special when a player brings the Cup home.
"To see them with it back at the house where they grew up, and to see the pride in the eyes of their parents is always something to see," said Bolt, who said that the Cup will "literally go around the world."
"And when they do go back home, they also want to show it around. Ride in parades with it or take it to golf courses or charitable events. We just ask that they abide by the rules and regulations."
And those would be?
Bolt said there are just a few:
"Keep it safe.
"Keep it respectful.
"And have fun with it."