Thursday, June 07, 2007

Raising the Cup

Yes, this is a sports post. A hockey post, to be precise. But you don't have to be a sports fan, let alone a hockey fan, to appreciate what winning the Stanley Cup means to hockey players.

Hockey is what's called a "niche sport." It doesn't have much of a "casual fan" base to speak of. It has painfully low TV numbers. (I'm talking about here in the States, of course... not in our neighbors' country to the north) It has a rabid core fan base, but compared to the other big three sports it pales in comparison.

And yet Lord Stanley's Cup is widely regarded as the single greatest trophy in all of sports, the world over. First, it's the oldest professional trophy competed for in North America. Second, it has the names of the men who won it engraved it. And third, every player from the winning team gets to take the Cup for a day.

Hockey players don't get gigantic Nike shoe endorsements. They're not plastered all over billboards and TV and magazine ads. Sure, NHL players make good money, but nothing like the money made by players in the other big three sports. They don't play for glory.

They play for the Cup.

Until he wins the right to hoist it over their head, an NHL player won't touch that Cup. Will not touch it, no matter how close to it he gets. It's part superstition, and part deference. I don't want to jinx myself, and besides, I haven't earned the right.

Ask Rob Niedermayer. His brother, Scott, won the damn thing three times with New Jersey. In 2003, big brother Scott's Devils beat little brother Rob's Anaheim Ducks in game 7 of the finals. Rob's brother Scott had the Cup in his possession three times and Rob wouldn't touch it.

Last night, when the final horn blew and Anaheim had beaten Ottawa to win the series, Scott (named MVP of the playoffs) picked up that Cup, raised it over his head, and then handed it to little brother Rob, tears streaming down his face.

Hell, I wanted Ottawa to win and I had tears in my eyes.

But it's always that way. No matter whom I'm rooting for, no matter who's on the winning team, I get chills when I see that Cup being raised. I think to myself, there can't be a more awesome feeling of victory. Of reaching a monumental goal.

As a hockey player myself -- a sorry excuse for a hack of a weekend warrior hockey player -- I daydream of lifting that Cup over my head and skating around the ice.

Of course, given that that'll never happen, if I ever get close to that thing I'm touching the hell out of it.

11 comments:

Paticus said...

Nice post.
I know how it felt to be a fan of a team that finally won it(NY Rangers) I can only imagine what it must feel to win it. It is amazing to see the faces of those guys that have played for so long to finally win one, like when Borque finally won one with the Avalnche. Or Niedermeyer last night.

PJ said...

I'm happy for the Ducks (although I can't love them as much without Paul Kariya, but oh well). They kicked my/our beloved Red Wings' ass and I should hate them for it but I don't. They work hard on the ice, play smart, and they deserved this victory. But I'd touch that cup, dammit. I'd touch it in its most intimate places, yes I would. I COVET touching that cup.

Lucyp said...

Wow, that is one huge cup.

PJ said...

"Wow, that is one huge cup."

The dream of every sports player is to hear that in locker room dialogue.

Teacake said...

Huh? What are you on about? I was assured by my brother a while back that the Sabres were going to win the cup. No?

Well, you can't expect me to follow it. I went to a Sabres game once. I fell asleep.

Jeff said...

The Sabres lost to Ottawa, who lost to Anaheim in the finals.

Jenna said...

Lloyd is not happy that the season is over. Yes, my three-year-old loves hockey.

But yeah for the Ducks. Our local ECHL team, the Augusta Lynx, is affiliated with them.

Teacake said...

Oh, well, good. It helps the peeps in Buffalo accept how much the Bills suck if all their teams always lose.

O' Tim said...

Bill Geist did a hilarious (as per usual) segment on CBS Sunday Morning with the guy who is the NHL's official Keeper of the Cup. The best part was learning how much alcohol has been imbibed from that thing. Oh, and cereal eaten. Yessss.

P.S. - Only someone named Teacake could fall asleep at a hockey game.

Don said...

LOL PJ! Seeing him lift that cup makes my back hurt.

PJ said...

"LOL PJ!"

Well thank God SOMEBODY got it.