We showed it to 21-year-old J.J. O'Connor, a quadriplegic whose spinal injury came in a hockey game five years ago. We set it on the armrests of his wheelchair, and his grin was the size of a cantaloupe slice. J.J. still loves the game, doesn't blame it or his best friend, who checked him into the boards that day. In fact J.J. loved the Cup more than anybody else we met. Knew more about it, too. He guided us to all kinds of odd stuff on the Cup, misspellings and X-outs, and it hit us that physical perfection is way overrated.
Right then, a junior league player walked in and just couldn't deal with bumping straight into the Cup. He kept rubbing his hair and staring Frisbee-eyed at it, walking all around it, getting within an inch of it but not touching it. I asked him why. "Not worthy," he whispered.
But the best place we took the Cup was a place where most of the people couldn't see it—The Chicago Lighthouse. More than 200 people who were blind or visually impaired came up and felt it. Their hands started low, thinking the Cup was, well, a cup. The higher they felt, the wider their mouths opened. "It's huge!" one boy said. A woman gasped and said, "It feels like a wedding cake!"
It was my privilege to take their hands on a quick tour of hockey history, letting their fingers touch the great names, from M. RICHARD to W. GRETZKY. They hugged it. They kissed it. They rubbed their faces on it. One man whose eyelids didn't open wouldn't let it go. "Never seen anything like this," he said.