Nobody knows the Stanley Cup like Phil Pritchard does and he’s got stories
DENVER—Few people on the planet have seen more men cry than Phil Pritchard. The ‘Keeper of the Cup’ or officially, the Vice President, Resource Centre, and Curator for the Hockey Hall of Fame has traveled everywhere with the Stanley Cup since December 1988. Wherever the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup is, Pritchard follows.
And the Cup travels many places, spending a day with each member of the winning team in the summer, and is one of the most famous trophies in sports. Pritchard and Stanley can travel up to 300 days a year.
On Tuesday, the trophy was in Denver for Stanley Cup Final Media Day, ahead of Game 1 of the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning series. While Pritchard has spent a lot of time with Tampa lately, as they’ve won the last two titles, he’s fond of the two summers he spent with Avs over 20 years ago.
“One great one that I remember is Patrick Roy got invited to a Pro-Am golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, and (John) Elway was there and guys from all different sports there,” Pritchard remembers. “We brought the cup with Patrick because he wanted to bring it, and he had just won it. And what was amazing about the whole thing is we had it on display for the whole time and after each hole, Patrick would go golf, and then he’d ride back in the cart and get photos with people to go out again. So his game wasn’t a four-hour game. It’s like a six-and-a-half-hour game. But he understood he was the Stanley Cup champion, and there were people there waiting to see the cup and see him.”
“To me, it stands out so much because people look at Patrick Roy as a very intense guy. He was so open with it, and it was amazing. And Patrick is a great guy. And he is one of the best.”
Roy went down as one of the game’s greatest goalies. He’d coach the Avs for a few years but stepped aside, and that’s when General Manager Joe Sakic found Jared Bednar, who leads the burgundy now.
“He was the best goalie to play the game in my mind,” Sakic said Tuesday.
While Sakic was only looking forward with a chance to get his name on the cup a third time, Pritchard points out to me that most names that get carved on the trophy—which predates the National Hockey League and was first handed out in 1892—get on there again. But Sakic’s name will always stand out because, among the many incredible reactions, Super Joe was part of one of the best.
“I think one of the greatest moments in sports history is when Joe handed Ray Bourque the cup, and that’s gonna stand out probably forever as a magical moment in sport,” Pritchard said. “But it really shows the definition of what Joe Sakic is, but more than that, it shows us what a team is. And it’s not about one guy; It’s about everybody. And that’s when Joe made sure of.”
Bourque came to Colorado for his cup chase after 21 years in Boston went without a title. The 19-time All-Star finally got the trophy in his 1,826th and final NHL game when the Avs were crowned champs in 2001. Bourque, one of the greatest players in hockey history, waited as the captain Sakic retrieved the cup and instantly gave it to the heroic Bourque.
Pritchard was standing right there.
“It’s been around 130 years now, and the people that have lifted over the years, every one of those people deserves it. They earned it,” Pritchard said. “They did whatever it took to win the cup and to see them lift it over their head for the first time or to see them hand it to their mom or dad or grandparent or their first coach—it’s magical.”
That magic breathless moment where the athlete feels the literal 35-pound weight of their accomplishment in the form of Stanley’s Cup is just four more wins away for the Avs. No matter where the Cup goes this summer, Pritchard will follow—like he always does.