The Crazy History of the Stanley Cup

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It’s considered the toughest trophy to win in professional sports. It’s made of silver and nickel alloy, weighs 34.5 pounds and measures 35 ¼ inches. It’s the Stanley Cup. Unlike other trophies in North American pro sports, the Cup isn’t remade every year, which makes it more special and creates a kind of folklore surrounding it. Each year, after the playoffs, stories about the Cup come to fruition after team members spend their designated day with the Cup. Here are some of the more popular stories surrounding teams and their experiences with the trophy.

It was designed to be a neat and original Cup photo op. Blackhawks forward, and Buffalo native, Patrick Kane decided to take the Cup to Niagara Falls. But this proved a side-story to what happened after Kane left the falls. That afternoon, Kane took the Cup in a fire engine and was lifted in a ladder over Buffalo. Then the ladder wouldn’t go down and Kane was stranded with the Cup about 70 feet above ground for 20 minutes. “It was a little scary, but anything with this (the Cup) is unexpected,” a visibly shaken Kane told NHL.com. “I’m just happy to be out.”

Out of all the pictures taken of the Cup, few match the high wire act Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer performed in 2000. Nidermayer had a helicopter take him to the top of Fisher Peak in British Columbia, close to Niedermayer’s childhood home of Cranbrook, BC. When he won the Stanley Cup again in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks, Niedermayer, and his brother Rob went to the top of the 9,336-foot mountain for a re-do of the photo. “The heli had to hover about three feet up and we jumped out,” Scott Niedermayer told Skiing Magazine in 2009. “The photos tied the Stanley Cup to the mountains and my home.”

Curses have been born in the Cup most notably the New York Rangers’ Cup hex of 1940. That year, after New York won the Stanley Cup, its owners burned Madison Square Garden’s mortgage in the chalice. The $3 million pricetag had just been paid, and the pyrotechnics were considered more of a celebration. The hockey gods took note. The Rangers wouldn’t win another Cup until 1994.

Ray Bourque waited 22 years to win the Stanley Cup. When Colorado won it in 2001, captain Joe Sakic didn’t even hold it over his head before passing it to the grizzled veteran. "I couldn't breathe, and it wasn't because I was tired," Bourque said after the game. "It was just too much. I was trying to hold off the tears." How did Bourque celebrate that night? He didn’t go to Disneyland. Instead, he hosted a street hockey game in his suburban Denver neighborhood with the Cup close by.

Detroit Coach Mike Babcock is considered an avid water skier. So it made perfect sense for Babcock to strap the Cup to his boat at Emma Lake in Saskatchewan for his day with it in 2008 and then ride behind it.

With all its travels and history, it’s fascinating to think that the Cup never made it to Russia, until 1997. That year the Detroit Red Wings won their first Stanley Cup and three of their five Russian players took it to their homeland. The Cup went to Red Square, an exhibition soccer game, and met Russian President Boris Yeltsin. “If every one of them (the fans) smiles, then I know why we came here,” defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov was quoted in a 1997 article in The New York Times.

The 1994 New York Rangers Stanley Cup win brought all sorts of interesting stories and photo ops. Brian Leetch and Mark Messier took the Cup on David Letterman’s show. They also brought it to McSorley’s Old Ale House in Greenwich Village. But no photo was more interesting – or bizarre – then Ed Olczyk taking it to Belmont Park and allowing Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin to feed out of it.

Messier liked to bring the Cup to his favorite, um, establishments. These included two of the more noted gentlemen’s clubs in two countries. In 1987 after Edmonton’s 7-game victory over Philadelphia, Messier brought the Cup to the Forum Inn, a strip club near Northlands Coliseum. He duplicated this act in 1994 with the Rangers. Messier brought the Cup to Scores in Manhattan.

The most famous Stanley Cup story involves Mario Lemieux’s swimming pool – twice. When the Pittsburgh Penguins won their second Stanley Cup, Lemieux had a party at his house. In order to get the party jumping, defenseman Phil Bourque decided to throw the Cup into the pool to see if it floated. Bourque quickly came to a realization, however. “It doesn’t float,” Bourque said in an NHL.com interview in 2008. “We put it in Mario’s pool and it sinks in a matter of 10 seconds. We didn’t want to hurt it because you got to respect the Cup, but you want to have some fun with it too.” Photos of the Cup in Lemieux’s pool following the Penguins’ 2009 championship surfaced that summer. In those photos, the Cup appeared to be floating.

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