Some NHL players are fortunate enough to earn the right to be called Stanley Cup champions. If they’re lucky, they may hoist the prestigious NHL trophy more than once. Some hockey fans are grateful to be able to take part in a champion’s celebrations. If they’re lucky, they might go through a day with the Stanley Cup more than once. This is how I got lucky.
The Los Angeles Kings won their second Stanley Cup in three years and most of the current roster got to go through their day with the Cup for the second time. For Justin Williams, this was his third time, also winning it with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 prior to joining the Kings. This day was a little different than the rest as he also had his day with the Conn Smythe Trophy as a result of being named the MVP of the playoffs.
Two years ago, I wrote about how I got to spend my day with Stanley when Williams brought the Cup to his summer home in Ventnor, New Jersey. This year, Williams spent his day much like he had in 2012 and he even got a second day with the Cup that he spent in his hometown of Cobourg, Ontario. My family lives in a small town outside of Ventnor and although I moved back to Montreal since 2012, there was no way I was missing this chance of spending another day with the prestigious Stanley Cup. After getting my day off from work approved and booking my 12-hour bus trip from Montreal to Atlantic City, I was all set to go through this again.
This time I thought it would be really special to share the experience with my ten-year-old sister. I have always shared with her as much hockey knowledge as I can, hoping that she will grow to have the same appreciation for the sport as I do. It always brightens my day when she wants to watch a game with me or tells me she looks away every time she sees someone wearing a Flyers shirt so giving her the opportunity to be in the presence of the Stanley Cup and a true champion was probably the most fulfilling part of this day.
First, we went for a drive past Justin’s house to kill some time, hoping to maybe get a glimpse of the Cup. There were some kids playing street hockey outside and he seemed to have a lot of family over, but no view of the Stanley Cup.
Justin Williams and his hardware in front of city hall
Williams makes his way though the crowd at the city hall
The Conn Smythe Trophy follows Justin away from city hall
Justin Williams with my little sister outside of Ventnor City Hall
At 2:30, we rode our bikes to Ventnor City Hall, where the Cup would be making an appearance. I wore my LA Kings t-shirt and my sister wore an Alex Kovalev (my favorite player) Montreal Canadiens t-shirt that I had outgrown. Justin Williams pulled up in his party van just a few feet away from us, giving my sister her first view of the big shiny trophy as well as the Conn Smythe Trophy. After a few quick speeches and the presentation from the mayor to Justin with the key to the city, Justin and his hardware made their way through the crowd, stopping to take a few quick pictures with some kids on the way. My sister was one of those lucky kids to get a picture and I had a proud big sister moment, asking if she had touched it and if she knew how big of a deal this was. Being that we were in a crowd wearing mostly Philadelphia Flyers gear, it was pretty cool when Justin noticed her shirt, saying “Montreal Canadiens, eh?” and the Keeper of the Cup adding “Wrong team!” As we were riding back home, Justin’s bus pulled over and the Cup was on the sidewalk just a few feet from us so that was pretty neat too.
Me with the Conn Smythe Tophy in the lobby at Caesar’s
After I got home and changed, I went to pick up my friend Ryan and we headed over to the Caesar’s Casino in Atlantic City where the trophies would be on display. We were meeting up with one of Justin’s buddies who is also friends with one of my cousins. This was the same guy who got me and Ryan into Justin’s private party two years ago. When we got to Caesar’s he told us that we wouldn’t be able to get into the party this time, as Justin was having a smaller get-together since he had an early flight to Ontario to catch the next day. However, he was still able to get us up close to the trophies.
The Stanley Cup was on display in the casino lobby, where a long line of people waited to get their picture taken with it. On the other hand, the Conn Smythe was not approachable, unless of course you knew someone who had the keys to the gate it was behind.
Around 6 o’clock, the Cup and the Conn Smythe were taken off the display and made their way to a private room in preparation for the party. It was a funny feeling walking through the casino floor with three security guards, the Keeper of the Cup holding Stanley, and Justin’s friend holding the Conn Smythe, people giving us strange looks while most others were too attached to their slot games to even notice what was going on behind them. At one point I remember hearing a woman say “There was this huge line of people waiting to see this thing. I don’t get what the big deal is.” I just snapped my head back to see who said that, thinking to myself “You have no idea how much history is behind that trophy and how lucky you are to have even seen it.” Crazy hockey fan problems…
Mine and Ryan’s golden moment with the Stanley Cup
Anyways, we made it to the room where Stanley and Smythe got a quick polish and my friend and I had our pictures taken. We were able to actually lift the trophies, careful not raise the Stanley Cup above our heads. It’s a rule in the hockey world that you can’t hoist the Stanley Cup above your head unless you’ve won it and earned that right. It’s a sign of respect to the people who have made sacrifices and put in the hard work that goes behind being a Stanley Cup champion. I knew that rule as Walt Neubrand, the Keeper of the Cup, handed us Stanley and I also knew that part of the Keeper’s job was to enforce that rule. So it was interesting to see the hesitation behind Walt as he handed us the Cup and how he told us to be careful not to raise it too high. We got to chat with the Keeper for a little and he explained to us how there are thee Keepers and he traveled with it to all the “local” (Ontario, Quebec, and the Noartheastern United States) players’ homes. He was telling us how it had just gotten back from Europe and how he would be heading over to Ontario with Justin the next day for Justin’s hometown parade.
Who’s the real MVP?
The hardware — Smythe and Stanley
My second day with the Cup, like the first, was definitely a day I will never forget. As a hockey fan, you only dream of having your chance to get up close to NHL players and prestigious trophies such as these ones. I can’t say which day I enjoyed more, as they were both unique and any opportunity to hang out with the Stanley Cup is an enjoyable one. I can say that I am grateful to have had these opportunities and the long bus ride was totally worth it.
“What makes it so perfect is that it’s big enough for both hands. All the other sports, it’s really one hand in triumph. The World Series trophy is too fragile to handle while celebrating, but not the Stanley Cup — it’s made for two hands and two arms way up in the air. It’s the timeless and universal symbol of triumph.”
-Ken Dryden, Montreal, 1971, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979