July 4, 2022

Politics and Commentary News Aggregator

The Stanley Cup Comes to Visit, Accompanied by a Handler in White Gloves

4 min read

Security (no surprise) is tight at 1 World Trade Center. “It’s a lot easier to get into the White House than it is to get in here!” Mike Bolt said the other day. Bolt, in a blazer and black pants, hair styled in a boyish coiffure, was escorting an A-list celebrity through the tower’s subterranean corridors. The entourage included a colleague of Bolt’s and the celebrity’s two hosts, who worked for a magazine upstairs. They were stopped by a pair of security guards.

“This,” one host said, pausing for effect and gesturing toward a trunk on wheels, “is the Stanley Cup.”

Guard No. 1: “Uh-oh.”

Guard No. 2: “Whoa, pretty cool.”

X-rays, metal detector, K-9 sniff-up: the trunk, plastered with airline stickers, got through with aplomb. Bolt’s blazer bore a patch from the Hockey Hall of Fame—Le Temple de la Renommée du Hockey—in Toronto, on whose behalf he serves as one of the Stanley Cup’s four minders. The Cup, for those whose hearts don’t flutter at its mere mention, is the giant silver chalice that is awarded each spring to the winner of the National Hockey League championship. (This year’s playoffs, with the New York Rangers in the bracket for the first time in five years, began earlier this month.) The Cup, with Bolt and last year’s winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning, had just visited the Oval Office. (The President, in his remarks, referred to the N.H.L. boss Gary Bettman as “Commissioner Gary Batman.”) Next stop was Las Vegas, for the N.F.L. draft, and then a state funeral, in Montreal, for the Canadien Guy Lafleur.

The Cup is usually on the road three hundred days a year. Each player on the winning team gets it for a day. It travels with a skirt and prefers to rest on a round table, three feet in diameter. “I can dress that table up and make it look real nice,” Bolt said. He opened the trunk, pulled on a pair of white gloves, lifted the Cup out of its casket of blue velvet, and set it on the table. It did look real nice. Shiny and tall—even, to use this word just once, iconic. “Can we touch it?” someone asked. Hockey code says that you aren’t supposed to until you win it. There were some (mostly ex-) amateur players in attendance, one wearing a vintage Philadelphia Flyers jersey—No. 8, Dave (the Hammer) Schultz—another in a Hartford Whalers T-shirt, and a third who had taken his two young sons out of school. They all—even the kids, who at least theoretically still had a shot—began to touch it anyway.

“You can hug it, you can kiss it, but if you feel the need to lift it, go win it,” Bolt said. Every victorious player gets his name engraved on the Cup.

“Come on up here, buddy,” Bolt said to the younger boy. “Who’s your favorite player?”

“Vladimir Tarasenko.”

Bolt helped the boy find him.

“Oh, yeah, I see him,” the boy said.

“He lives near Mongolia, on the other side of Russia,” Bolt said. “It’s deep.” The Cup, and Bolt, had travelled to Tarasenko’s home town, Novosibirsk, in 2019, after his team, the St. Louis Blues, won the championship. “Took twenty-two hours to get back from there.”

The Cup had taken Bolt to Japan, to the pit at Ground Zero after 9/11, and to Afghanistan. In Kandahar, it had come under a missile attack, during which Bolt, oblivious, sat on the trunk reading Maxim. He was later lauded for sticking by the Cup to protect it. “I’d missed the safety briefing,” he said.

Employees were arriving at work.

“What’s the Stanley Cup?”

“I’m a hockey moron, but I didn’t expect it to look like a tiffin.”

“I’m not exactly the demo. I was programming in BASIC and hanging out at the multiplex.”

This being a magazine office, talk turned to typos. The Cup is lousy with them. The Ilanders. The Maple Leaes. The BQSTQN BRUINS. (A name from 2010 is x-ed out—that of a Chicago Blackhawks video coach who was convicted of sexual misconduct.)

There is a replica of the Cup, with corrections, in the Hall of Fame. And the original version of the silver bowl that crowns it, the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, purchased in 1892 for $48.67 by Lord Stanley of Preston, the governor-general of Canada, sits behind glass in Toronto, alongside the retired rings of names. To keep the trophy the same size, the band of silver inscribed with the oldest names is replaced every thirteen years with a new ring: dead hockey men, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

But this Cup, the Cup, had been through a lot. It had nicks and dents and repairs that looked like welds. After the Rangers won it in 1994, they ran wild. “They took it to Scores, ” Bolt said. The league, aghast, having already considered no longer letting teams bring it home, instead settled on hiring minders. Still, every summer, it takes a beating: pool parties, Jet Ski parties, Scotch chug-a-thons, baby poop. One suture on the bowl’s lip was the result of its being dropped last year by a Tampa grinder named Pat Maroon. Someone suggested that the dings gave it character.

Bolt said, “Let’s see what you look like when you’re a hundred and thirty years old and party as hard as the Cup.” ♦

Nick Paumgarten, Sarah Larson
2022-05-16 06:00:00

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