It has gone from the top of the Rockies to the bottom of Mario Lemieux’s swimming pool, from a strip club in Manhattan to an Edmonton auto body shop for hasty repairs.

And it has found its way into many more naughty and nice niches in between.

But when you’ve dreamed of holding the Stanley Cup since childhood and as a National Hockey Leaguer, dedicated all four seasons of the year to the quest, your 24 hours with ‘the people’s trophy’ should be shared with as many or as few people as desired, in the celebratory style of your choosing.

Author/sportscaster Jim Lang, whose new book My Day With The Cup was released just in time for the Oilers-Panthers final, takes you where those who’ve lifted it spent their short and sweet designated time with the silver mug.

Lang’s subjects, mostly from 1995 onward when the summer Cup tours began, had tales full of heart tugs and hilarity in trying to keep festivities from straying off-side.

“They do a lot of drinking, no doubt, but I got the sense the real shenanigans take place during the parade and the team party,” Lang laugh said with a laugh. “Their day with the Cup is more about friends and family.

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“Have fun, but respect the Cup is the message they get. One of the big rules is that if anyone else drinks out of it, the player has to be around and have his hand on the Cup. That’s for quality control.”

Lang spent more than two years talking to players, families and those famous, white-gloved “Keepers of the Cup,” led by Phil Pritchard and Mike Bolt from the Hockey Hall of Fame. The latter duo’s season begins at the end of the NHL’s, when commissioner Gary Bettman hands the Cup to the winning captain, through the raucous team bash, the parade, the silversmith engraving and the tour itself.

Usually every player, coach, executive and staffer whose name is on the Cup gets it for a day, subject to club approval.

“I had no real idea of the Cup’s impact,” Lang said. “Then you see it, from Alberta, Saskatchewan, to Minnesota, Massachusetts and all the way to Europe.

“I was at the Montreal Canadiens Cup parade in 1993, working for CHOM radio, watching Serge Savard and Patrick Roy come past me with it. Ever since I’d been fascinated about what it was like for them to have it.”

Years after their special day, the players still get choked up reliving it.

Forward Nic Hague of the 2023 Vegas Golden Knights showed it to his grandmother in her wheelchair at the family home in Kitchener, Ont. She ran her 99-year-old fingers over the band with the newest winners.

“She asked ‘why is my name on the Cup?’” Nic recounted. “I said it’s because we share the same last name. And her eyes lit up. From moments like that to the scrapbook my Mom made chronicling our run to the Cup … our family name, my name, will be on it forever.”

Lang says such anecdotes show the NHL “gets it right” with its policy to make the Cup and its 1893 origins accessible to its players, teams and the public. The World Series Trophy, the NBA’s Larry O’Brien and the Vince Lombardi all are first handled by owners, the NFL casting a new Lombardi every year. All three are rarely seen with players post-title or post-parade.

“One over-riding emotion in all the stories I heard are the tears,” Lang said. “Many players told me they’d never seen their fathers cry until the Cup was in their home. People who came by the family party and see it for the first time start crying, too. Players bring it in a bar unannounced and people cry.

“I just think it’s something about the trophy and the name itself.”

Current Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan got lucky with the Cup schedule the first time he won with Detroit in 1997 and was granted two days with it. One was spent bar-hopping with his clan around Mimico in the west end of Toronto, but between functions next day, he slipped away with it to the cemetery where his father is buried.

“I was nervous about bringing it to a place like that,” he told Lang. “When I arrived, it was completely empty. Even then I wasn’t sure if I should bring it out of the car. But I did and sat where my father is laid to rest. I spent time reflecting there and quietly put the Cup back in without anybody noticing.”

There are 52 names permitted on the Cup, decided by the team with final approval by the league and the Hall of Fame. Players must meet certain playoff games criteria to get on, the staff is the team’s choice.

Time is usually tight as the Cup makes its way across two continents on a strict schedule, which Pritchard and Bolt equate to a major rock band’s concert itinerary.

Many winners stage their own hometown parade with a fire truck — Colorado’s Nazem Kadri’s escort had to break from his London, Ont., motorcade in 2022 when called to an actual fire — while Mike Ricci of the 1996 Avs jammed in half a day at his Scarborough home, then put the Cup in a limo to his half-finished Haliburton lakeside cottage.

After ‘bribing’ a local work crew with a Cup photo op to ensure the cottage deck would be finished for the event, Ricci, like many others, found word of its presence got out and there was an overflow crowd. It included a float plane that landed in the middle of the celebration, which Ricci first thought was nosey media, but turned out to be a mechanic friend of the family. Ricci’s buddies tied their boats together so the plane could dock.

A post script to that day, as told in Mike Ulmer’s 2000 book, If The Cup Could Talk, was local couple Ken and Cheryl Riley, who had been unsuccessfully trying to conceive for decades. They got a surprise invite to see the Cup at Ricci’s place through Ken’s boss. The 42-year-old Cheryl instinctively kissed it — and two days later became pregnant with the future Stanley C. Gordon Jeff Riley.

Many use the Cup’s quick stop as a fundraiser for the hockey arena or another worthy cause. Scott Young of the ‘96 Colorado Avalanche brought it to the Crystal Cafe in Clinton, Mass., where owner Sip Tierney had organized many RV trips through the years to watch Young in far-off arenas such as Quebec City and Pittsburgh. Young knew Tierney always sat with his back to the door and plopped the Cup in front of him to start the waterworks.

Sylvain Lefebvre certainly purified the Cup in ‘96 when the Avs defenceman used it as a baptismal font at the church for daughter Alexzandra, as did Tomas Holmstrom of the Red Wings a few years later.

Rich Peverley, a 2011 winner with Boston in an injury-shortened career, kept the Cup at a distance for himself when it first arrived in Guelph, Ont. A confessed hockey nerd, he wanted to study all the famous teams and names on it, which started with the safely preserved bowl at the Hall when first roughly carved by the 1907 champion Montreal Wanderers.

Peverley hired the same band that played at his wedding to the house while guests filed in all day.

“Giving it back was tough,” he told Lang. “The Keeper showed up at midnight. I was in the middle of the party with the band, the beer, everyone having a good time. Next thing I know (it) left.”

American talk shows have hosted Stanley; David Letterman, Jay Leno and Howard Stern.

Sidney Crosby’s Canadian twist was taking his first Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009 to a veterans’ hospital in Cole Harbour, N.S., where his aunt once worked and he had interviewed residents for his schoolboy project. Crosby also assembled childhood street hockey mates who used to play for an imaginary Stanley Cup at a tennis court and put the real one at centre for their reunion game.

Seven years later, it was a more elaborate ceremony for Crosby, involving navy vessels in Halifax, with the Cup aboard a Sea King chopper that buzzed over his house.

Those fortunate enough to repeat with the same or different team often include the charity component, as well as visit their favourite bar or restaurant. Kris Draper chose the aptly themed Detroit Eatery in Toronto’s Greektown when the Red Wings won.

During the Cup exchange from an Avs trainer near St. Cloud, Minn., Colorado forward Dan Hinote was offered an extra day with it if he could drive an hour to meet Bolt that night in the parking lot of a Dairy Queen. Hinote told a group of friends he was taking them for ice cream, arriving at the DQ where to his pals’ shock, Bolt was standing with white gloves and the Cup.

A chocolate sundae or banana split isn’t the most unusual food group that has been consumed in its bowl. Kings coach Bill Ranford thoughtfully had lemonade ready for a large number of kids at his home in New Westminster, B.C., in 2014.

Once the beer and champagne residue has been wiped from the previous night’s hijinx, many a player has enjoyed his Corn Flakes and milk among other meals. In Saskatoon in 2022, Colorado goalie Darcy Kuemper added the family recipe of pierogies with bacon and sour cream, though kept the food in a secondary dish to lessen the mess.

Dogs, such as Eric Messier’s, have also enjoyed some kibble in the Cup, horseman Ed Olczyk let ‘94 Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin have some oats, but miffed Devils coach Larry Robinson drew the line when a farmer friend in Marvelville, Ont., put some feed in it for his ‘Jersey’ cow.

Another multi-winner, the late Red Kelly, was among those who posed their toddler children in the bowl. One of Kelly’s kids accidentally urinated, which made Kelly laugh in subsequent years whenever he saw pictures of guzzling alcohol from it.

Lang knows some purists aren’t amused at such behavior.

“On one hand, children and pets are part of the family, but there is a respect factor the Keepers have to observe. Of course, the one big taboo everyone is aware of is ‘if you haven’t won the Cup, you can’t touch it.’”

That might be considered an odd superstition in tandem with many teams refusing en masse to touch the Prince of Wales Trophy or Campbell Bowl after the conference championships, but we’ve seen this hands-off rule close-up a few times.

NHL alumni brought the Cup to their visit with front-line Canadian Forces in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. Half a world away from any prying NHL eyes, Hall of Famer Mike Gartner dutifully kept his distance during informal snaps with the troops, while those who’d won the Cup such as Mark Napier and Chris Nilan were front and centre pawing it with military personnel. Even a direct order from Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier for Gartner to get in the foreground for a team photo had to be disobeyed.

Other NHLers yet to win have had to deke around the Cup at similar functions. There certainly could be some awkward moments for the huge Sutter family, sorting out which brothers and nephews have won and which must look on with envy.

With inauguration of the tour 30 years ago, Pritchard and Bolt have become celebs in their own right through TV commercials and books, but are run off their feet between June and September. Everywhere during the Cup’s travel, when transit officials recognize their prize cargo, they’re asked to open the case for pictures.

In Russia in 2019, heading to Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko’s home in Novosibirsk, a four-hour flight east of Moscow, a flight attendant came to their seats before take-off and said the pilots wanted a Cup peek. The Canadians reminded her the Cup was already in the baggage hold, but she accompanied them down and ordered handlers bring it out for the requisite photos in the cockpit.

With the Cup re-packed and the two back in their seats, Bolt asked Pritchard if he’d detected the same odour he had while kibitzing with the crew.

“The pilots had been drinking,” Bolt said. “Welcome to Russia.”

But a couple of times crossing the Canada-U.S. border, when separated from their personal documentation after a long day, the Keepers have used the Cup as an emergency passport to stay on schedule. Also in 2019, they bartered with Robert Thomas of the Blues to give him a bonus hour with the Cup in exchange for time to shower and change at his Aurora, Ont., home.

Sometimes logistics dictates an overnight stay for Stanley at the player’s home. The Keepers will trust that day’s recipient to protect it and players and their partners take that quite literally, sleeping with the Cup, such as Tampa Bay’s Frederik Modin and wife in 2004 and late Jersey coach Pat Burns a few years later.

“How many times are you going to do that in your life?,” teased Line Gignac Burns to the Sun at Pat’s Hall of Fame induction.

Veteran Edmonton writers have spun a Wayne Gretzky yarn about the team taking day beds in a downtown hotel the day of a clinching win. Gretz, as the legend goes, ended a late night in possession of the Cup, got disoriented, wandered back to the hotel where his room key still worked and flopped asleep with it. He departed in the morning, unaware of the shock some incoming guest would’ve had discovering the Great One and the chalice occupying their bed.

One definitely true story was the Edmonton body shop which opened early one morning to find a rather embarrassed Oilers official carrying  the dented Cup, collateral damage from a party Mark Messier threw. It was put on the hoist and gently tapped back into position for presentation, as it was for mishaps by the Lightning and Rangers in similar circumstances.

It was said the Rangers’ 54-year Cup drought was a curse from 1940 when the team burned the mortgage of the first Madison Square Garden in the bowl.

Yet not all are in thrall of the Cup. Lang wrote that when Devils’ Bill Guerin and friends proudly brought it to a bar in Wilbraham, Mass., in ‘95, two old regulars shrugged and remarked “looks like some softball team won a tournament.”

Inevitably, growing concern about security and the perils of rogue social media posts have influenced the player Cup celebrations. Lang spoke to a private security guard nicknamed Rocket, who is often called to monitor the player and the Cup at large public events.

“Not only do I know the players, I know good fans from bad fans,” says Rocket, who has worked with acts such as Bruce Springsteen, Tim McGraw and The Tragically Hip. “I know when it’s OK for certain fans to go over and say hi to a player and touch the Cup.”

Rocket often plays the bad guy, cautioning fans they can’t raise the Cup themselves or try any inappropriate poses. And, as a sunrise-to-sunset presence, he also sympathizes with the player being spread so thin through the day, with tired arms from constantly lifting the 34½-pound trophy.

Rocket adds there’s a new tradition with the player getting a last glimpse of the Cup before the Keepers pack it up.

“See you next year.”

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