Nicolas Aube-Kubel stumbled with the Stanley Cup as he skated toward the Avalanche championship team photo and crashed into the ice.
The 130-year-old NHL relic, suddenly, was dented. Call it the first speed bump on a global journey this summer with Avalanche players. Don’t worry. Lord Stanley is already back in perfect shape ahead of Thursday’s championship parade in Denver.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 27, 2022
“(Aube-Kubel) felt awful about it,” said Phil Pritchard, better known as the Keeper of the Cup, in a phone interview with The Denver Post. “When he did fall, he fell into his players, which is fortunate. If he would have landed straight on the ice, who knows what would have happened. I think he was just so excited that he skated over as fast as he could to be in that team photo.
“It’s fixed now. Looks as good as ever.”
Pritchard, curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, has been the main handler of the Stanley Cup since 1988. He will travel with the trophy over the next several months per longstanding NHL tradition.
“Each team gets 100 days with it to celebrate, which includes the parade and the team photo,” Pritchard said. “The great thing about it is that hockey (understands) the team is much more than those guys on the ice. It’s their first coach. The teacher that pushed them a little extra. It’s their grandparents that drove them to practice. Their spouses. … They get the opportunity to bring the Cup home and to say: ‘Thank you.’
“It is so emotional and powerful when they do that.”
The Avalanche is currently mapping out the schedule for when players get their day with the Cup. The NHL is barring it from entry into Russia, per deputy league commissioner Bill Daly, meaning winger Valeri Nichushkin will not be bringing the Cup to his hometown of Chelyabinsk.
“We sat down with the team and started laying out some preliminary schedules, dates and guidelines,” Pritchard said. “These guys might have summer holidays planned. They might have marriages or wives giving birth. We try to make it work for everybody. Obviously, to go around the world in 100 days and have all these different celebrations going on, it’s a lot more than just writing it down on paper.”
The Cup has traveled to 29 different countries under Pritchard’s watch but never below the equator. Those visits include some well-documented strange dealings with Lord Stanley. Rangers center Ed Olczyk fed 1994 Kentucky Derby winner, Go for Gin, out of the Cup at the Belmont Stakes. In 1996, Avalanche defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre baptized his daughter, Alexzandra, in the Cup. It also sunk to the bottom of Penguins center Mario Lemieux’s pool in 1991.
But where does the NHL draw the line for trophy shenanigans?
“Other sports make a new trophy every year. But in hockey, it’s the same one,” Pritchard said. “Your heroes have won this and their heroes have won it. So, the biggest thing we do is respect it. … If they say they want to do something with the Cup, we ask them why, and they explain it to us. If it makes sense, we’re good. If it’s just for a joke or a laugh, that’s not the respect the Stanley Cup deserves.
“But it’s always really well thought out. It’s hopefully a day they never forget.”
Avalanche fans can expect to see the Stanley Cup on Thursday on the last fire truck of the parade route, Pritchard said. The trophy will also remain in Denver through July 5 before departing for Montreal and the NHL Draft. Until then, it’s possible Lord Stanley will make surprise appearances in and around Denver.
“I’m sure there will be opportunities,” Pritchard said. “Who knows? You could be walking around and the Stanley Cup could be right around the corner.”