Summer (and Fall) of the Cup comes to an end
If you paid attention to the Los Angeles Kings’ whereabouts after their Stanley Cup victory, you may recall a trip to Las Vegas, which marked the first time we had all heard the phrase “Palms Fantasy Tower Sky Villa.”
Though they were escorted by David Beckham into a party in Hollywood and chugged beer out of the Cup with mixed martial artist Chick Liddell, the first place that the team brought the Cup to was the North End Bar and Grill in Hermosa Beach, a longtime local haunt for players and South Bay hockey fans.
“We go to the nightclubs with the guys because that’s where they want to take the Cup,” Howie Borrow, a Hockey Hall of Fame archivist and one of five Keepers of the Cup, told FOX Sports West in July. “So we just go along and make sure everybody’s having a good time, but also there to make sure the Cup gets back to a safe place later that night, too.”
A hectic party schedule gave way to a championship parade and eventually a highly organized, 100-day tour of local sites and players’ hometowns.
Dustin Penner, a 2007 Cup winner with the Anaheim Ducks, was one of several Stanley Cup veterans who earned a second opportunity to have one of the most memorable days of his life.
“I got to do a couple things differently that I didn’t get to do last time, that I said: ‘You know, if I ever win it again, this is what I’m going to do,’” Penner said.
“I was able to take it golfing for a full 18 holes. I rode with it. I strapped it to the back like a set of golf clubs – beside my golf clubs – drove around and [shot] an 82, I think.”
Penner’s homecoming story represents the majority of Cup visits. Though the nightclubs and Las Vegas trip received more attention, it was mostly community gatherings, family dinners and personal events that became graced by the Cup’s presence. Dustin Brown’s sons blew chocolate milk bubbles out of the Cup the morning after it was paraded around the Staples Center ice.
Once the confetti had been cleared from the Kings’ victory parade, Kings senior director, communications Jeff Moeller and other employees began planning the next 100 days of Cup visits on a hand-drawn world map in a conference room at the team’s offices and practice facility. Needing to make sure that civic affairs were attended, sponsors were satisfied and each player received a day with the Cup in his hometown, the first objective was to get the Cup in the hands of the team’s European players: Anze Kopitar, Andrei Loktionov and Slava Voynov.
Before he had as much of a day off, Moeller found himself standing in a room in Chelyabinsk, Russia, the home of Voynov, roughly 1,000 miles east of Moscow.
“I’m literally saying to myself, ‘Wow. I was sent to Siberia. Did I mess up?’” Moeller joked.
Whereas North American Cup visits tended towards the orderly – fans waited in a line that wrapped around Salt Lake City’s Maverik Center for a glimpse of the Cup with Utahn Trevor Lewis – in Chelyabinsk, a pair of doors opened and thousands of people swarmed into the room, kids running toward the trophy and screaming as though they were in the presence of a rock star.
“I remember everything. I got six hours. It’s not enough time,” Voynov said. “I had six hours; it was an unbelievable six hours. I had four hours on Thursday with my family and friends, and I had another two hours on the second day with my hockey school, former team.”
A rock concert attended by an estimated 5,000 people in Slovenia greeted Anze Kopitar.
“The fact that 4(,000) or 5,000 people showed up, it was an honor to me,” Kopitar said. “It just shows how big of hockey fans we have there.”
Coach Darryl Sutter hosted a family hoedown and barbecue in his Viking, Alberta, homestead. Colin Fraser showed up to a party in his honor in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, by riding with the Cup toward a dock on the back of a speedboat. A few hundred miles to the west, Willie Mitchell hoisted the Cup at the summit of 13,186-foot Mount Waddington before returning to his hometown of Port McNeill, British Columbia, where the town’s population swelled from 2,500 to 6,000 on the day of the Cup’s visit.
Of course, winning the Cup will get you noticed even in a city with as many options and distractions as Los Angeles. Penner, who enjoyed as much attention as any of his teammates during the lockout when he appeared as a viciously intimidating intern on a Conan sketch, spoke of the experiences that became available during a summer in which they were local heroes.
“We’re pretty well taken care of from that standpoint. There are enough people higher up the chain in the Kings organization that can get you where you want to go, and when, and how,” he said.
“But walking around with a four-foot-high trophy that’s a hundred years old in a city that’s had fans here for 40 years, it’s amazing the doors that do open. I don’t think I would have been on Conan O’Brien if it wasn’t for that.”
No stranger to Cup appearances, Penner pinpointed the most rewarding experience of winning sports’ most recognizable and sought-after trophy.
“I’ll never get tired of bringing the Cup back home, so hopefully I can do it a few more times.”