THE ENDURING VOODOO OF THE STANLEY CUP
An object that transcends hockey and makes weird happen
While I abhor sports and couldn’t give a tinker’s foot about hockey, let alone its trivia, I am always suitably impressed when an object accumulates enough strange, eldritch energy around it to develop pagan superpowers. The Stanley Cup is an object that apparently foments an uncontrollable Dionysian mania around all those who touch it. It is, unto itself, a strange vortex — a gateway to louche and insouciant behaviors, behind which people have historically lost all sense of propriety, and often their clothing.
“No trophy in the world can create the party or the type of attention that this piece of hardware can,” wrote Matthew Fairburn for BleacherReport.com in 2011.
“(The Stanley Cup) was the biggest chick magnet you could find,” an unnamed hockey player told VICE news.
The Stanley Cup, at 130 years old, is the oldest existing trophy that is awarded to a North American sports franchise. It is annually given to the National Hockey League’s playoff champion team. It is three feet high, weighs 35 pounds, and is the only sports trophy that isn’t re-made every year. It was commissioned in 1892 by Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor General of Canada, and made in England of Sheffield Steel. Lord Stanley was one of the first fans and supporters of this treacherous ice game played by wide-necked and toothless Canadian brutes that would eventually become what we now know as hockey.
The cup’s original purpose, as dictated by the Winnipeg Victorias in 1896, was for the winners of the hockey match to drink champagne out of it. While this has certainly been accomplished to ridiculous excess, the Cup has also been repeatedly violated and subjected to a grievous array of whatever puerile stunts the winning teams can drunkenly envision. These, too, are arguably part of the Cup’s tradition.
Since 1989, the winning team of the NHL championship Stanley Cup takes the Cup home for most of the summer. Each player is allowed to spend a day with it in his possession, moderately supervised. The Cup, which has a rich life of its own, travels to various functions for the other 300 days of the year, always attended by two professional chaperones, who do not appear to have ever discouraged any of the more salacious, unsanitary, or merely stupid uses of the Cup in its checkered history.
Winning the Stanley Cup has been described by players as “a religious experience.” But the Cup also harbors more sinister energies; it is thought that if a team member touches the Cup before winning it, they will be cursed to lose that year.
In 1905, the Ottowa Senators hometown celebration became so unhinged, one player tried to dropkick the Stanley Cup into the Rideau Canal - which was thankfully frozen, so they were able to retrieve it the next day.
In 1924, the Montreal Canadiens (the league who has possessed the Cup the most, having won it 24 times) got a flat tire on the way to their victory celebration and ended up leaving the Stanley Cup by the side of the road. It was hours before they realized it was gone, but it was still there when they drove back to search for it.
In 1940, the New York Rangers paid off the mortgage for Madison Square Garden and decided to burn the paperwork inside the Stanley Cup, which set the Cup itself on fire. It was subsequently extinguished by the quick-thinking players, who all commenced bravely urinating on it. This is rumored to have been the reason for the curse: after that desecration of the trophy, it was 54 years before the Rangers would win the championship again.
The legendary Rocket Richard tried to drink out of the cup in 1957 and chipped two of his teeth.
In 1962, the Cup was set on fire by the Toronto Maple Leaves, who “mistakenly” thought it was firewood, causing significant damage that the Leaves then had to pay for.
1987 was merely the first time that Mark Messier of the Edmonton Oilers took the cup to a strip club, so it could be used as an erotic prop by the dancers. Later in 1994, Messier, then with the New York Rangers, took the Cup to another Gentleman’s Club called SCORES; everyone got drunk enough to leave it there. The Cup ended up severely dented, so Messier took it to an auto-body shop for repairs.
For his day with the trophy, Eddie Olczyk, who also played for the Rangers in 1994, took the Stanley Cup to the Belmont stakes, where the winning Kentucky Derby Horse “Go for Gin” ate oats out of it.
In 1998, after a victory in Detroit, Kris Draper’s infant daughter had a diaper blowout in the cup - it was then cleaned, and the drinking out of it resumed with barely a hiccup.
Two different players, Mario Lemieux in 1991 and Patrick Roy in 1993 and both decided to take the cup swimming — and both times the cup ended up at the bottom of the pool.
Three separate players allowed their dogs to eat out of the cup.
In 1996, Sylvain Lefebvre used his day with the cup to have his daughter baptized in it — one of the Cup’s more wholesome adventures.
Steve Yzerman of the Red Wings repeatedly showered with the Cup after their win in 1997.
In 2001, Colorado Avalanche Director of Finance Mark Waggoner carried the Cup to the summit of Mount Elbert.
In 2010, when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Cup, it was proudly featured on a Gay Pride Parade float.
It has been taken on various dates in Hollywood. Luc Robitaille took it to see the Hollywood sign; it was also taken on a roller-coaster ride at Universal Studios, and participated in the Rose Bowl Parade after a win by the Anaheim Ducks. The Cup has also been deployed twice to Afghanistan to boost morale, and at one point was engaged in a brief firefight.
The Cup has also had several TV cameos, including 30 Rock (where Dennis, Liz’s boyfriend, after rescuing a man on the subway decided to “team up with the Stanley Cup to fight illiteracy”), and a brief appearance on Boston Legal; The New Jersey Devils brought the Cup with them on Late Night with David Letterman.
Over the years, the Stanley Cup is rumored to have been hitchhiked with, slept with, thrown down stairs, hurled off of balconies, and copulated on. There is probably no bodily fluid which it has not, at some point, contained.
Clearly, an object containing such vivid Bacchanalian power over human behavior should be attended to regularly by witch doctors or earth shamans who will refresh its energies with dove-blood, incantations, and virgin dance ceremonies. Phil Pritchard, the official keeper of the Stanley Cup since 1988, who surely has his own rituals with the object, must keep his eyes jealously on the prize. Great care must be invested in the coming centuries to make sure the Stanley Cup doesn’t get left in more strip clubs, or get dropped into the Bermuda Triangle, or end up the ashtray of a mustachio’ed druglord. To say nothing of its impact on the world of professional hockey, the loss of this totemic object —which is really more of a pagan religious icon, or even an entity - would be metaphysically insurmountable.
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Artwork: “Used Gorilla” oil on canvas by Cintra Wilson