Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 01
The Stanley Cup Journal

Hockey Hall of Fame Curator Phil Pritchard (aka Mr. Mastercard) prepares the Stanley Cup and the
Conn Smythe Trophy for Game 7
(Monday, June 9, 2003) -- Children dream about it. In fact, so do adults. To cradle hockey's most coveted trophy is a reward comparable to winning the lottery. For many, it's much better. It's the most exhaustive and exciting pursuit in sports. It's the pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

Once a playoff berth has been achieved, it takes just 16 wins to capture the Stanley Cup. It sounds simple, yet there are few things as difficult to attain. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim battled through 102 games to reach Game 7 of this Stanley Cup final. It took the New Jersey Devils 105 contests to reach the deciding game. And the entire season -- for some, their entire career - came down to but one game.

The penultimate game was highlighted by a collision of captains. Anaheim's Paul Kariya was laid out by a devastating check from Scott Stevens of New Jersey. After leaving the ice surface, unsteady and unsure, Kariya returned several minutes later to a thunderous ovation. In a moment that affords sport its most sensational drama, Kariya drove into the Devils' zone and ripped a slapshot that roared past the glove of Martin Brodeur late in the second period. The vanished became the vanquished. Captain Kariya led his Mighty Ducks to a 5-2 win in Game 6, setting up the most exciting scenario in hockey - the seventh game of a Stanley Cup final. Prior to tonight, the Stanley Cup had only been won in a seventh game eleven times. Tonight, NHL history would record a twelfth.

The Stanley Cup arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City just past 1:00AM local time early Monday morning, accompanied by custodians Philip Pritchard, the Vice President of Hockey Operations and Curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Craig Campbell, the Manager of the Hockey Hall of Fame's Resource Centre. While in New York City, the Stanley Cup found a home in Pritchard's hotel room where it was polished, ready for presentation at centre ice in the Continental Airlines Arena following tonight's championship contest.

New Jersey is experiencing a sports nirvana. While the Devils battled the Mighty Ducks for hockey's ultimate prize, the New Jersey Nets are facing the San Antonio Spurs for the NBA championship. Sunday night, the Nets lost to the Spurs at the Continental Airlines Arena in Game 3 of the basketball final. For approximately fifty staff, the task was to transform a basketball facility into a hockey arena overnight. By 7:00 the next morning, the mission had been accomplished and the arena was ready to welcome the eyes and ears of hockey fans from around the globe.

New Jersey veteran
rearguard Ken Daneyko
Tonight, Pritchard and Campbell drove their special cargo by van to East Rutherford, New Jersey, and then methodically carried the Stanley Cup into the Continental Airlines Arena at 7:30 local time, half an hour prior to the singing of the national anthem. At 8:00PM, Jean-Sebastien Giguere led the Mighty Ducks onto the ice. Martin Brodeur led the charge for New Jersey. While the on-ice battle was being waged, the Stanley Cup was sequestered in the officials' room, ready to be transported onto the ice surface at the conclusion of the game.

For all intents and purposes, the game was decided in the second period on New Jersey goals by Michael Rupp and Jeff Friesen. Rupp celebrated the evening with a three-point night while Friesen capped the victory with a second goal late in the third period to clinch the Stanley Cup with a 3-0 win. It was the third shutout of the final for Martin Brodeur. Coincidentally, it was also his third Stanley Cup championship.

Prior to the New York Rangers' championship in 1994, the Stanley Cup was carried out onto the ice and placed on a table during the commercial break that preceded the on-ice presentation. But that year, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman insisted that hockey's most prestigious trophy be afforded the celebrity it deserved, and now, the Stanley Cup is carried down a red carpet by Hockey Hall of Fame executives Philip Pritchard and Craig Campbell, clad in requisite blazer and white gloves. Tonight, the historic trophy was turned over to the league's commissioner, who announced, "Scott Stevens, we've done this before. Come get the Stanley Cup!" The New Jersey fans, who had paid for their whole seat but only used the edge during this championship game, erupted in a roar that Phil Pritchard called, "…louder than I ever could have imagined!" With that, Gary Bettman beamed as he handed the Stanley Cup to Scott Stevens, whose grin eclipsed even that of the Commissioner. After lifting the Cup over his head in celebration, Stevens searched for Scott Niedermayer, and then handed the Stanley Cup to his teammate.

Devils' forward Scott Gomez and
actor Whoopi Goldberg
For the New Jersey Devils' franchise, this was their third Stanley Cup championship, following celebrations in 1995 and 2000. Five Devils have taken part in each of the three championships: Stevens, Niedermayer, Brodeur, Sergei Brylin and Ken Daneyko. Daneyko, the longest-serving Devil having played in New Jersey since 1983-84, was especially emotional about the victory. Although he watched from the sidelines through the six previous games of the Stanley Cup final, coach Pat Burns dressed the veteran for Game 7. "I'm just grateful he showed faith in me," said Daneyko. "This might be my last go-round. It was as sweet as it gets!"

While family and friends, including actor Whoopi Goldberg, celebrated with the Devils on the ice at the Continental Airlines Arena, Pat Burns enjoyed his first Stanley Cup victory. "This group of guys was amazing," he told CBC-TV. "We had some adversity, some things to get through, but we did it! It's a great feeling!"

With Monday night's victory, Scott Stevens completed his twenty-first NHL season. The captain summarized the season, stating, "It wasn't easy for this team. We worked hard together and we found a way to win. It's an awesome feeling. To win three Cups in nine years in this era is quite a thing to do!"

Find out on Wednesday how the Stanley Cup spent its first night with the 2003 Devils...and who took it home!

Kevin Shea is a hockey journalist and historian based in Toronto.

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