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The elusive sip

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Want to drink from the Stanley Cup? Get your name on it—or get good friends.

by Tim O’Shei

Want a sip from the Stanley Cup? Learn to skate damn well. Because if your name isn’t on it, your lips won’t be either. “If you’ve never won it, you can’t drink out of it,” says Karl Johnson, a filmmaker who trailed hockey’s Holy Grail to shoot 450 hours of footage for a still-in-production film called “Saving Stanley.”

That rule—and it does have a loophole—is one of the few attached to the world’s most recognizable trophy, a 35-pound sterling silver chalice engraved with the names of the people who have won it. Winners can do anything they please with the Cup. Well, almost anything. Legend has it the 1987 Edmonton Oilers took it to a strip club. So did the 1994 New York Rangers, who sheepishly returned the Cup to the NHL in pieces. The league clamped down. Now, every winning player, coach and general manager gets 24 hours with the Cup. But it comes with a white-gloved handler, either Phil Pritchard from Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame, or one of his three assistants. They’re charged with maintaining the Cup’s rules of safety and decorum. Strip clubs are out. So are casinos. So is skydiving, as a player once jokingly told Pritchard he wanted to do.

But beyond that, the Cup regs are borne solely of tradition. There’s the drinking rule. There’s a lifting rule, too, which came up earlier this year during a photo op with Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean. When a photographer asked her to raise the Cup, she looked to Pritchard and inquired, “May I?”

“Sure,” he replied, “but we ask that only the Stanley Cup champions hoist the Stanley Cup over their heads.”

“Don’t you worry,” she laughed. “I haven’t earned that right.”

Those who do win the Cup take full and creative advantage. Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward ate Corn Pops from it. New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur and his kids took the Cup to the movies and munched popcorn from it. Sylvain Lefebvre of the Colorado Avalanche used the bowl for the christening of his niece. Dogs and horses—including a Kentucky Derby winner—have fed from the Cup.

Last summer, Aaron Rome of the 2007 champion Anaheim Ducks hosted a Cup party at the Peacock Pub in his 1,800-person hometown of Souris, Manitoba. Guests ate poutine (fries, cheese and gravy—a Canadian specialty) from the bowl and also sipped cold beer from the Cup. And that’s the catch: You can drink from it—as long as someone who has won the Cup passes it to you.

Johnson and his partner, Dean Georgopoulos, interviewed dozens of players, coaches and celebrity fans for “Saving Stanley.” One of them was the television host Billy Bush, who spoke with enthusiasm about a time when a Cup-winning pal gave him a sip.

“Had he known what else has been in the Stanley Cup,” Johnson says, “he may have declined.”

Uh…probably not.

 


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