In one of the least conspicuous places possible, the most conspicuous trophy in all of sports spent a few strange but ultimately interesting hours Wednesday.
Yes, the Stanley Cup was in Minneapolis. You probably didn’t know that because it was here for a media tour only, and it was tucked inside a small hotel conference room downtown marked only with the words “National Hockey League Press Junket.”
Inside the closed doors, in the corner of that mostly bare room, there were a pair of chairs, a Stanley Cup playoffs backdrop, a small table and the trophy 16 NHL teams began a two-month fight for last week.
Walking in as the first local to see the Cup on Wednesday, I was greeted by Howie Borrow from the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, who is accompanying the Stanley Cup on its travels. After its trip to Minneapolis, the Cup was slated to go — with Borrow — to Nashville.
It was somewhat strange seeing such a hallowed object off the ice and in such a plain environment, but maybe not as strange as it seemed at the time. Borrow says the Cup — this is the real one, by the way, with a replica permanently stationed at the Hockey Hall of Fame — spends 350 days a year on the road.
Even someone such as Borrow, who is used to articulating why this particular trophy is so revered, gets excited talking about it and spending time with it.
“I think it’s just the history of the Cup. It’s 125 years old now, and it’s just how hard it is to win. You have the regular season of over 80 games and then a whole new season in itself,” he said. “The players’ names are on the Cup, and that’s something that will be with it forever.”
Well, sort of.
You see, the 35-pound trophy has a main bowl, neck and shoulder pieces and then five large bands as it works from top to bottom. In order to keep the Stanley Cup from getting too unwieldy, the bands at the bottom need to be removed and replaced as more teams win.
That only happens every 13 years, but it’s slated to happen shortly before the finals this year to make way for the next group of teams. In the process, some legendary teams and legendary names — including Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and Maurice “Rocket” Richard — will disappear from the trophy. The band that’s removed will be put on display at the Hall of Fame.
“It is unfortunate, but that’s the way the Cup is designed,” Borrow said, adding that the living players whose names are coming off the trophy “are probably feeling some emotion about that.”
But that’s part of the charm of the trophy. It needs to be sized to pass around and make the rounds with the winners. It was in the Twin Cities last July with Jake Guentzel after the Penguins won it.
And it was back on Wednesday in a small downtown hotel conference room.