Lord Stanley’s Cup is back in the 412. And when you look around the NHL, we’re pretty fortunate.
To fans of the New York Rangers, the Cup is just like Halley’s Comet. They see it once every 76 years. Philadelphia Flyers fans last saw it in 1975, when the finals pre-empted an episode of the hit television show Maude. Fans of the Washington Capitals are 42-year-old-virgins; they haven’t scored with Stanley once since they were born in 1974. Buffalo has had as many cups as Super Bowl rings, and the Cup hasn’t been back home to its native Canada since 1993, the year before the birth of its next greatest import, Justin Bieber.
But the Cup is back in Pittsburgh for the fourth time in the past 25 seasons, a feat matched only by the Detroit Red Wings. The Cup and its white-gloved gentlemen handlers will follow members of the team around for the next 100 days. That is the time allotted to each team for its accomplishment. The 35-pound trophy must be a nice conversation-starter, as well as the ultimate bragging right. Every Penguin will get his turn to pal around with Stanley, and here’s what I think some of the players are likely to do with it.
Phil Kessel obviously wants to rub it in the face of Toronto Maple Leaf fans. He’s already taken out an ad in a Toronto publication to thank the city’s diehards for driving him out of town. The Toronto press browbeat the 28-year-old winger during his stay, and Kessel hasn’t forgotten. Leaf fans haven’t seen the cup since 1967, the year the Penguins were born. Seeing it in downtown Toronto at the Hockey Hall of Fame has been their only opportunity. There’s a pretty good chance his time with the Cup will involve food, and it looks like you can fit a lot of hot dogs in that thing. Chris Kunitz will show it off for third time — the most of anybody on the team. Kunitz has two with the Pens and one with the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks vastly improved when they dropped the “Mighty” from their moniker and ended their association with Coach Emilio Estevez. (I sometimes confuse movies with real life.)
Matt Cullen is almost 40 years old, so I hope he doesn’t throw his back out when lifting the prize. He’ll most likely just Netflix and chill with the cup, or perhaps bring it to his hometown of Virginia, Minn. That town is a hockey-player factory that also produced dinosaur-fighting actor Chris Pratt. Before this victory, Biddeford, Maine, had been best known for giving us a member of the Charles Manson family, but now it’s known for Brian Dumoulin. Dumo is the first person ever from the state of Maine to have his name on the Cup, and gives his town something much classier to put on the “Welcome to Biddeford” sign.
Sid Crosby’s trophy shelf, which just added a Conn Smythe, is probably too crowded to put Stanley on it. The first pick of the 2005 draft has lived up to the unrealistic expectations heaped upon him and has now equaled Lemieux’s championship output.
However, success isn’t always predicated on where you’re drafted. The guy drafted dead last that same year was Patric Hornqvist. There were 229 players taken before him, and now his name is on the trophy for eternity. Hornqvist will most likely swing the Cup over to his native Sweden and hang out with teammate and fellow Swede Carl Hagelin. They can hand it off to Olli Maatta, who’ll take it Finland, and then finally to Tom Kuhnhackl to round out the European tour. Kuhnhackl is from Germany, so the Cup might be the biggest attraction right after the David Hasselhoff museum, in Berlin. Germans aren’t known for winning many things, so a prize of this magnitude might be met with confusion.
Babies have been baptized in the Stanley Cup before, so there is precedence if Evgeni Malkin does it with his new son, Nikita. Geno might take it back to mother Russia, where he is the country’s second most celebrated hockey player behind Vladimir Putin. Go ahead and laugh, but if you’ve seen videos of Putin playing hockey, he never misses a shot. A selfie with Geno and a shirtless Putin riding a horse with the Stanley Cup is something I need to see. Wunderkind goalie Matt Murray had a street in Squirrel Hill temporarily renamed after him, and now has his name on the Cup, too. Not bad for a guy who was in high school four years ago.
So enjoy Lord Stanley of Preston’s stay here in town. If you were a Pens fan when an indoor soccer team was outdrawing them in the early 1980s, you probably never imagined the team would win one cup, let alone four. Legend has it that Phil Bourque put the Cup in Mario’s pool just to see if it floats; turns out it doesn’t. However, I’d love to see someone try it again, maybe this time in the Dormont pool.