“Did you realize you said ’n’ ’at?” this reporter asked.
He did not. Pritchard, best known as the “Keeper of the Cup,” broke out in a little Yinzer while discussing his summer in Pittsburgh with the Stanley Cup and the world-champion Penguins accompanying it. So while the 28-year veteran of one of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s more popular, if not prestigious, positions is quite likable to begin with, he’ll toss around the vernacular a bit too.
Pritchard says seeing a man surrounded by his family shows who the player is “because his mom and dad are those that raised him, and his coaches ’n’ ’at.” Pittsburgh knows what you mean, Phil.
Right now, the Cup resides in the city and the Penguins’ have pseudo-ownership of it until the new season kicks off Oct. 12. So far it’s been to six countries on this global victory lap, including coast-to-coast travel in the U.S. and Canada.
Tom Kuhnhackl even shared a sip of beer from the Cup with his dad in Germany.
“Tom’s dad was a German hockey player, one of the most well-known ever,” says Pritchard. “It’s so powerful and emotional when the guys bring it home. For Tom to thank his dad for everything he did, the emotions are all over the place.”
Erich Kuhnhackl played for more than two decades and was named Germany’s best ice-hockey player of the 20th century. He stopped drinking after he quit hockey, but when his son brought the Cup home, he had a drink. “He thought it was time to drink again since his son reached the ultimate,” Pritchard says. “It was pretty special — a father-son bonding moment.”
Pritchard also enjoyed his time with Phil Kessel, who took the Cup back to a children’s hospital in Toronto, the hometown of the team that traded him to the Pens.
“He always told the kids that if he ever won it, he would bring it to them,” Pritchard says. “He kept his word and came back. It means a ton to the kids and to him.”
There have been plenty of special and fun moments during the team’s 100 days of celebrations. Twitter is a great place to watch through Pritchard’s eyes (@KeeperoftheCup). There, you’ll catch Bryan Rust napping with the Cup, and Marc Andre Fleury having the traditional family bowl of cereal out of it. What wasn’t traditional? A whole Stanley Cup full of McDonald’s fries for Rust and friends. “I can’t remember that going in before,” Pritchard says.
This is the fourth time Pritchard’s’s been a part of the Penguins’ Stanley Cup celebration, and he’s gotten to know the city a bit and even speak the language. “I always think it’s amazing,” he says. “Pittsburgh seems to blow away every other city in America when it comes to their sports. They love their city and they love their sports.”
“And it’s a great city to hang out in.”
Hopefully, he can spend more time here next summer.
Stacy Kauffman is an on-air personality with sports-talk station The Fan 93.7 FM.