What would you do with the Stanley Cup for a day? After a year of begging, I got the NHL to give it to me for one day to do anything I pleased. Well, not anything. The league vetoed taking it to a prison, seeing what I'd get for it at a pawnshop and eating Count Chocula from it. Other than that, Stanley and I had the day to ourselves.
I wanted to take it crazy places, places that the Cup would not normally go. Naturally, I chose Chicago, the NHL city that has gone the longest—39 years—without winning the Cup.
It arrived at O'Hare in a blue crate covered with FRAGILE stickers. It also arrived with a burly redhead in a blue suit and white gloves named Paul Metzger-Oke, who went everywhere the Cup went. "It can't go anywhere of ill repute," Paul warned me. "No casinos, no strip clubs, no skydiving." Rats.
When Paul took it out of its velvet-lined box, I got chill bumps. The Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in sports, because it's the people's trophy. When a team wins the Cup, each of its players actually wins the Cup—for a day. It's been on mountaintops and pool bottoms, at the White House and a Waffle House. It's got more dings than a driving-school Pinto, but those are battle scars that make it more handsome.
So on a chilly October day I rented a cherry-red convertible, put the top down, buckled Stanley into the backseat with Paul and set sail down the freeway. Almost nobody noticed.
We took it down Michigan Avenue, where most people figured it was a fake. "Where's the real one?" we heard a lot. Once someone said, "That ain't the Cup! The Cup never comes here!"
We took it to a convent, where the sisters touched it reverently. One sister reminded us that Colorado Avalanche defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre had his daughter baptized in the Cup. The sisters figured it for a good save.
We took it to the Billy Goat Tavern, the greasy spoon made famous by the "cheeseboiger, cheeseboiger!" skit on Saturday Night Live. The fry cooks all had their pictures taken with it while the burgers burned.
We took it to a children's hospital, where the Blackhawks' star wing, Tony Amonte, met us and showed it to the kids in the burn unit. Some of them could barely turn their heads to see the Cup and yet smiled at it, as painful as it was. All of us had a lump in our throat, which was why it was a relief when a nurse asked Tony, "Have you spent much time around the Cup?" and he replied, "You obviously haven't seen my stats."
We took it to a Mite hockey practice, where six-year-olds swarmed it, applauded by banging their sticks on the ice and bragged about who would win it first, while their parents begged them to skate still for a moment so they could get a picture. By then, of course, the kids were flying around the rink, pretending to be Jaromir Jagr.