Maurice Richard chipped his teeth on it, Patrick Roy threw it in his pool and Sidney Crosby played street hockey for it.
The Stanley Cup has fed Kentucky Derby winners, been drop-kicked onto a frozen canal and forgotten by the side of the road. It’s seen every corner of North America, and more than a few corners of the rest of the world. It’s logged unbelievable mileage and even more unbelievable stories.
It is the greatest trophy in sports.
For the players, the Cup is a lifetime of hockey manifest. They afford it the respect of a friend and the passion of a lover. Like the season it culminates, Lord Stanley’s Mug balances the champagne swigging with the trench digging, visiting hospitals, and military bases as well as night clubs and private parties.
But for the next 24 hours, the Stanley Cup is (fictionally) mine.
The first stop is Oakland, the neighborhood the University of Pittsburgh, my soon-to-be alma mater, calls home.
We bring the Cup to the 13-and-a-half floor of the Cathedral of Learning, the world’s second tallest educational building. To get there, we have to take two elevators, bound up a half flight of stairs and shimmy out a window. We are rewarded with one of the best—and most secret—views of Oakland.
Standing on one of the outside tiers, I raise the Cup in salute to Schenley Park, whose hills, running trails and golf course kick my ass regularly.
Next up is Ritters Diner, a 24-hour dive restaurant home to the best breakfast in the city.
The diner stays open for the public while we’re there—“Ritters is people,” after all.
Each booth is outfitted with its own jukebox, and our blares a symphony of Tom Petty, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Sister Hazel. I get chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream and a side of sausage, while Jerry eyes up the eggs Benedict.
After much picture snapping, the Cup is loaded back into my green Jeep—which has seen almost everything—and whisked away to UPMC Sports Medicine on the Southside.
UPMC Sports Medicine holds a special place in my heart. After three successive concussions, my competitive sports career came to an abrupt and unwelcome end.
I spent two months of my junior year in high school in bed, too sick from post-concussive syndrome to attend classes. After putting me through a battery of tests, the doctors at Sports Medicine determined my cognitive functioning had dropped to that of a nine-year-old. It was their expertise and rehabilitation that put me back in the classroom, but I was never able to return to competition on the court—or ice—again.
Today is my day to thank them, and to raise money for the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program. The program, directed by Dr. Mark Lovell, seeks “to help make a sophisticated and standardized concussion evaluation system available to high school-age and younger athletes worldwide.”
After the charity event, our party follows the sage advice of Phil “The Ol’ Two-Niner” Bourque: “Let’s take this thing down to the river, and party all summer!”
The Cup is loaded onto the Majestic, the flagship of the Gateway Clipper Fleet, for a cruise fit for a Lord.
It is here that Scott Blasey and the rest of the hometown band The Clarks serenade our silver friend. Always a crowd-pleaser, the band plays a nearly two-hour set, complete with “Born Too Late,” the lyrics changed to “Geno, show me how you shoot that thing/And Sidney, will you ever wear a ring?/Marc-Andre, all the joy and love you bring, I was born to siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing.”
Once the magnificent cruise comes to an end, Jerry loads the Cup into a limo for our last downtown adventure—a drive through the Fort Pitt tunnels.
The tunnels offer what is arguably the most explosive view of Pittsburgh. Author Steven Chbosky describes it best:
“As you enter the tunnel, the wind gets sucked away, and you squint from the lights overhead. When you adjust to the lights, you can see the other side in the distance just as the sound of the radio fades to nothing because the waves just can’t reach. Then, you’re in the middle of the tunnel, and everything becomes a calm dream. As you see the opening get closer, you just can’t get there fast enough. And finally, just when you think you’ll never get there, you see the opening right in front of you. And the radio comes back even louder than you remember it. And the wind is waiting. And you fly out of the tunnel onto the bridge. And there it is. The city. A million lights and buildings and everything seems as exciting as the first time you saw it.”
That’s the kind of excitement the Holy Grail deserves.
Finally, it’s time to retire to our own private sanctuary—my house. We build a bonfire. We go swimming. We drink until our livers shout “Uncle!” We share stories and hugs and memories.
With my best friends sprawled in various guest beds—or on air mattresses and hardwood floors— Lord Stanley sleeps with me.
Tomorrow, I have to give it away. But for tonight, the Cup is mine.
And now it’s yours.
You are Maurice Richard, Patrick Roy and Sidney Crosby. The Cup is yours to do with what you please. The catch: you have only 24 hours.
Be as serious or creative as your hockey heart desires. Include complete strangers, your 97-year-old grandmama and that guy who sells cotton candy at the arena. Take it out on your boat, let your niece eat a banana split from it and tuck it into your bed. It’s yours.
If you’re inspired, write an article (or make a slideshow) about your own adventure with Le Coupe Stanley, and post the title and link in the comments section.