Phil Pritchard Spills: Talking Stanley with the Cup's Keeper
As curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Phil Pritchard has plenty of artifacts to fuss over, but taking care of Canada’s Holy Grail is his main responsibility.
Standing three feet tall and weighing in at a hefty 34 pounds, Lord Stanley’s Cup is a whole lot of mug.
Over its 116-year history, this giant trophy has mostly served as a jumbo sized beer pitcher for the NHL’s championship team.
It was also stuffed with raw oysters on MTV in 1994, was used as a baptismal font for one of Sylvain Lefebvre’s kids in 1996, and purportedly became the 1940 New York Rangers’ piss pot.
I got Pritchard to spill his guts about his favourite cup.
Why does the Cup bring out players’ eccentricities?
It’s because they start putting their skates on when they’re two or three, their parents are taking them to the rink at 5:30 in the morning, and they work their lifetime toward this. Then they get 24 hours with a lifetime’s achievement award.
Have you ever imbibed from the Cup?
I was at this big party for Larionov, Fetisov, and Kozlov (1997 Red Wings). Because we were in Russia, it was vodka. It was passed to me, and I refused.
And Igor Larionov came up to me and put his arm around me and said, “Phil, think of us. We lived in Russia during Communism, we got out, we came to North America to play for this thing, and we’re lucky enough to bring it back home. This is a historic time and you are part of this history, you gotta be part of this too.”
When he put it that way, I said, “OK, I’m just doing it once.” But I wish it hadn’t been vodka.
Why were you so reluctant?
I didn’t deserve it—there are a few things that the players get that no one else has. Nobody gets to hoist it over his head; nobody gets to drink out of it unless he earned it.
You look at a guy like Ray Bourque who it took so long to win, and you saw his emotion when he got to hoist it over his head.
You can’t take that away from the players by having the public able to do that all the time.
So what is the non-winning public allowed to do with the Cup?
The public is allowed to touch it, hug it, all of that stuff. If they’re with a player who has won the Cup, if he hoists it over his head, they can hold a hand under there, too.
Would you take a bullet for the cup?
I’d take a body check.
Would you date Stanley if she were a woman?
Well, she’d be pretty old, and she’s pretty beaten up, so probably not. But she would be pretty experienced.
What was the best hockey game you ever went to?
When New York beat Vancouver in the ’94 Stanley Cup finals. It was unbelievable, not only for New York because it had been 54 years, but for their fans.
And I am convinced that if that last game were five minutes longer, Vancouver would have won.
What was the strangest encounter you’ve ever had with a hockey fan while traveling with the Cup?
I was in Reno, Nev., and this older lady came up to me and asked where the cups are.
And I said, “What do you mean "the cups"?”
And she said, “Well isn’t that a coffee urn? Can’t I get a coffee out of that?”
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