There are few trophies in sport that inspire such feelings of awe as the Stanley Cup. Those who play for it and are able to lift it above their heads are a privileged few; those of us laypeople who get to come in contact with it didn’t take that hard road to earn it, but we’re probably as in awe of it.
Hundreds of people lined up around a residential block at 7 am to wait for their chance to touch Stanley. My husband, operating on about three hours’ sleep, rolled out of bed at 5:45 to drive to Redondo Beach. I rolled over and nearly said I wasn’t going because I was exhausted. And then my non-rational sports-loving self kicked my rational self’s ass and said what are you, stupid?
Because after all, how often do you get to be this close to one of the most iconic trophies in sports?
I actually got to see the Stanley Cup more than a decade ago. It was 2000, and I visited Toronto for the first time. I went to the Hockey Hall of Fame and there it was. I was so stunned to just see it there, in a room, with no barriers, just a guy standing off to the side. I was so terrified of getting close to it, like I was going to accidentally break it or something. I snapped a picture from afar. It wasn’t until later that I was told you could actually go close to it and take a picture with it. I mean, it’s this huge shiny thing. It’s so famous. To see it without a lot of barriers around it and no glass case was something I wasn’t used to. Stanley is like a rock star, and yet he’s incredibly accessible.
And such is the beauty of the Cup. It’s kind of a public treasure when you encounter it. Can you say that about any other trophy in sport? Probably not. Grown men are like little kids in the Cup’s presence. People put their babies into it (more than a few folks did this in Redondo Beach). Kids stand there in silence just staring at it. People who are normally icky about germs will kiss it without a second thought.
I felt privileged to be able to touch it. I hugged it as best I could. (I’m a short person … that table is a lot larger than you think.) I was in awe at how solid, how heavy it is, even when it’s on a table. To think that players lift that thing like it’s nothing after a grueling playoff run is a miracle to behold.
That moment was fleeting, but forever preserved in a photograph. I will smile for the rest of my life when I see that photo.
Thank you, Stanley.