Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 2010, 01

It's the greatest reality show imaginable. Two teams, disparate personalities, desperately hungry for one thing: to realize their lifelong ambition of winning the Stanley Cup.

Phil Pritchard of the Hockey Hall of Fame prepares the Stanley Cup prior to Game Six of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals
"White Gloves" himself, Phil Pritchard, prepares the Stanley Cup prior to Game Six. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
No one could have imagined the drama that evolved this spring. Who could have dreamt that the Philadelphia Flyers, a team mired in 29th place last December, could have earned a berth in the playoffs on a shootout in the final game of the regular season? And they then clawed their way through blood, sweat and cheers to within a game of winning the Stanley Cup. Six times this spring they faced elimination. Five times, they beat it. It just wasn't there for a sixth miracle.

And three short years ago, the Blackhawks were jokes within their own league; their anachronistic owner treating his franchise like it was still the 1950s. There were usually more empty seats than full ones. But new blood and a new attitude changed all that, as did peach fuzz-faced kids like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, as dynamic a duo as has existed in the NHL in years.

Game 6 on June 9 began like all playoff games at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. Lauren Hart dueted on 'God Bless America' with the late Kate Smith, who continued to bring good luck to the Flyers at home just as she did in the springs of 1974 and 1975.

The Stanley Cup, ever at the ready for the possibility of being awarded, had been in New York for media opportunities on Tuesday and was driven to Philadelphia by the Keeper of the Cup, Phil Pritchard, a vice-president at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Stanley Cup looks out upon downtown Philadelphia and City Hall.
The Stanley Cup looks out upon downtown Philadelphia and City Hall.
(Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame)
To avoid superstitions and jinxing either time, the Stanley Cup was smuggled into the Wachovia Center at the end of the first period, with the teams tied one apiece. Stored in the officials' room, Pritchard polished and preened the historical trophy in case Chicago pulled out a road win over Philadelphia.

While not a classic, the game was exciting. Back and forth and forth and back. With five minutes left in the game and Chicago up 3-2, the Cup was readied for presentation to the Blackhawks, but then, Scott Hartnell scored with less than four minutes remaining to tie the score, and the Stanley Cup was put back into its custom-made carrying case. As the dust cleared at the conclusion of regulation time, the score was knotted at 3-3. At that point, if you didn't have your nitro-glycerine close at hand in case of heart attack, you were simply living recklessly.

Whispers enveloped the bowels of the Wachovia Center. A Maxwell and Jill Scott concert was scheduled for Thursday night (June 10), and in order to have the venue readied, the Wachovia Center had to be emptied by 2:00AM. What if there is a protracted overtime?

It was a moot point. With nerves frayed and emotions at a fevered pitch, at 4:06 of overtime, a hush fell over the Philadelphia faithful. Patrick Kane fired a shot from almost the goal line that seemed to disappear. Kane knew immediately that the puck had entered the far side of the net but few others realized that the Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup. While Kane danced about wildly, Flyers' netminder Michael Leighton was frozen in time. No goal light came on. But moments later, the stark realization that Kane had scored the Stanley Cup-winning tally dawned on Flyers and fans alike. "I don't think anyone knew it was in but me," beamed Kane. "We just won the Cup! It's unbelievable!"

In one of the great traditions of hockey, the vanquished lined up to shake hands with the victors. Several gladiators enjoyed a private comment, a smile or a hug with their foes. Admittedly, it had been a superb post-season with two teams that fought fiercely to lay claim to Lord Stanley's legacy, and while we all had our favoured team in the final, few could have been disappointed no matter the outcome of this series.

The Philadelphia faithful, while rabid for their Flyers, gave the victorious Chicago Blackhawks a heartfelt ovation that showed that underneath the colours, hockey fans are the greatest fans of all.

Craig Campbell of the Hockey Hall of Fame carried the Conn Smythe Trophy to centre ice, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman awarded the playoff MVP award to Chicago captain Jonathan Toews. In 22 playoff contests, the 22-year-old scored 7 goals and added 22 assists for 29 points. A worthy recipient, without doubt.

Chicago Blackhawks fans show their support in Philadelphia during Game Six of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.
Blackhawks fans in enemy territory during Game Six
of the Stanley Cup Final. (Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Dutifully appointed in Hockey Hall of Fame blazers, ties and the requisite white gloves, Craig Campbell and Phil Pritchard, a VP at the Hall of Fame, carried out the greatest trophy in sports. Donated in 1892 by Lord Stanley of Preston, Canada's governor general at the time, the magnificent trophy was first awarded in 1893, and with two notable exceptions (an influenza pandemic in 1919 and the lock-out of 2005), it has been awarded every year since. Commissioner Bettman followed behind the Hall of Fame executives. Once the trophy had been placed on a draped table, Mr. Bettman stepped up and congratulated both organizations on a momentous series. He then smiled, looked over to where the Blackhawks were standing, and said, "Jonathan Toews, come hoist the Stanley Cup!"

The second-youngest Stanley Cup-winning captain in NHL history glided over, accepted the Stanley Cup from the NHL commissioner, and then raised 35¼ inches of hockey supremacy over his head in victory. "This is as good as it gets," he explained. "It's awesome. We worked so hard for this. We always believed in each other and that's the number one reason we're here right now." A dream fulfilled.

Toews then handed the Cup to Marian Hossa. It seemed that Hossa was destined to always be the bridesmaid and never the bride. In 2008, while playing with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Marian went to the Stanley Cup final but lost to the Detroit Red Wings. The tables turned in 2009 when he went to the final with the Detroit Red Wings but lost to the Penguins. This year, he'll taste the champagne of victory from the Stanley Cup.

The Chicago Blackhawks drink from the Stanley Cup following their 9 June 2010 Game Six victory.
The Chicago Blackhawks live the dream and drink from Lord Stanley’s Mug. (Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Hossa passed the Cup to Patrick Sharp, who then handed it to Brent Sopel. Sopel called out, "Mad Dog!" and John Madden took the trophy next. And on it went as every player, from star to spare, took a turn with the Stanley Cup, as did coaches, executives, trainers and others. 34½ pounds of trophy is heavy, but you'd never know it watching the Blackhawks, who lifted it as though it was as light as the feathers on the crest that adorns their sweaters.

One man who has enjoyed Stanley Cup celebrations in the past is Scotty Bowman. As a special consultant to the Blackhawks, Bowman will have been part of 12 championships – 5 with the Montreal Canadiens, 2 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4 with the Detroit Red Wings and now one as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks organization.

The party carried on at ice level. In this era of social media, the Hawks' players tweeted and updated their Facebook statuses. Cellphones called all corners of the globe and snapped photos of teammates embracing. It was a special time, made even more special by the fact that the Blackhawks' organization had chartered a plane and flown each player's family into Philadelphia for the game, and there on the ice, most in tears, were mothers and fathers who remembered not that long ago driving their boys to 6:00AM hockey practices and tying their skates. Siblings, fiancées, wives and children celebrated with their champions, who had achieved the seemingly unachievable.

After the on-ice celebrating whittled down to a handful of stragglers, the party in the dressing room grew to a crescendo. Champagne and cheering until their voices were hoarse continued late into the night. But the Hawks' charter plane was taking everyone back to Chicago that night, so players scrambled to pull themselves together in order to board the plane.

Jonathan Toews hoists the Stanley Cup in the Chicago Blackhawks dressing room following the thrilling overtime victory in Game Six of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.
Jonathan Toews hoists the Stanley Cup in the Blackhawks dressing room following a thrilling overtime victory.
(Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Stanley Cup arrived in Chicago with the team and immediately was taken to a private party. Once the last of the lights had been extinguished, the Cup went home with captain Jonathan Toews, safe in the arms of the Conn Smythe winner.

On Thursday (June 10), franchise owner Rocky Wirtz was meeting the Stanley Cup, the team and staff at the United Center for photographs. He then would sit with members of his staff, representatives of the NHL and the Hockey Hall of Fame, to draft a course of action for the summer.

* * *

Since 1995, the Stanley Cup has spent its summers touring the globe in the company of the Stanley Cup champions. Through the summer of 2010, members of the Blackhawks will enjoy personal time with the Stanley Cup. If players take the Cup to their hometowns, as most are wont to do, hockey's greatest trophy will travel through Canada, the United States, over to France, Sweden, Finland and into Slovakia. Some celebrations will involve an entire city; others will be much more private. One way or another, the Stanley Cup Journal will give you a bird's-eye view (Hawk-eye, perhaps?) of an entire summer of celebrations as the Chicago Blackhawks enjoy the spoils of their first Stanley Cup victory since 1961.

Stanley Cup Journal will post stories each Tuesday and Friday until the Stanley Cup banner is hoisted to the rafters and the 2010-11 season commences. Join us on Tuesday when we take a ride with the Hawks in their Stanley Cup parade.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

All Photographs are property of the Hockey Hall of Fame or Getty Images and may not be reproduced without prior written consent. For more information regarding use of our photographs please contact us.
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