Some time ago, a man by the name of Frank Brown wrote an amazing essay that was included in a hockey book cherishing the tradition of the Stanley Cup. I read it every now and again around this time of year and I thought I’d share it with all of you. Hope everyone is having a fantastic Memorial Day…enjoy!!!
Somewhere there’s a grave I should visit. The headstone probably is powder by now; certainly the person buried under it is. I owe this person millions – a debt of thanks for crafting, in all its spectacularly simple splendor, the gleaming silver bucket that became Lord Stanley’s Cup. In the absence of a bouquet (can there be enough roses to offer gratitude this profound?), in the absence of a factual sense of whether this artisan lived as a man or a woman, in the absence of a clue where this important soul lived, laughed, learned, ate, drank, slept, wept, worried, suffered, and died, these humble words of appreciation are, at once, the least I can do and the best I can do.
Good Sir or Madam, wherever you are, wherever you were, thank you for the Cup that makes hockey better than any other sport. Men will work all their lives for the privilege of crying over the Cup. They will cry because they won it, they will cry because they didn’t. They will spend ten days or two weeks clubbing each other silly, will break each other’s bones, will rend each other’s flesh, will shed each other’s blood (or their own; it couldn’t matter less). And still they will shake hands when the series is over because over that period of time they shared, on a frozen field of combat, the gallant honor of striving for the Cup.
The winners will bring it to their parents’ homes and say, with words or with smiles, the same words just typed here: Thank you. Thanks, Mom and Dad. Thanks for driving me to the rink. Thanks for the skates at Christmas. Thanks for the goal net in the driveway. Thanks for shivering through all those practices. Thanks for everything. Mom, Dad, when this Cup goes to the engraver, your hands will hold the chisel and the hammer as the name you gave me-YOUR name-is immortalized.
Others will speak to parents now gone, to brothers or sisters or friends who didn’t live to see the day the dream came true. They will close their eyes and speak with their hearts. From their floats on parade day, they will search the skies for a cloud that looks like someone in Heaven who truly would have loved to have been there.
Our Cup is for Howe and Richard and Beliveau and Gretzky. And it is for Holik or Lehtinen or Zubov or Leetch. Canadians can win it. Americans can win it. Or Czech Republicans or Russians or Slovaks or Finns or Swedes. It isn’t merely a Cup; it is a wondrous melting pot. And the democracy is a marvel. Everybody who helped win it gets to touch it, to carry it above his head, even hold it in the lap of his wheelchair. The scorers who checked, the checkers who scored, the muckers who passed, the passers who mucked, the fighters who held their tempers and skated away from trouble, they touch sweaty fingers to the cold sterling silver and suddenly all the pain leaves them – flies upward with the spirits of the fans who buy the tickets and the T-shirts and the banners and the posters, the ones who paint their faces and wear their jerseys to the rink for the games in May that matter and the games in September that don’t.
It is incredible what they put themselves through-the players, the fans, the coaches who would sign any deal with any devil if it guaranteed the last line change, the best match-up, another skate save in overtime of Game 7. And then again, it is not incredible at all. You stand in a rink and you see the faithful wave their towels or their shakers, you hear the choir of their voices in a temple of all that is pure about our game, and you know there is no place else to be. You know there are sixteen teams, then eight, then four, then two, then one, and when that one team is yours, all the energy in the universe channels through Stanley into your cells, your molecules, your atoms.
And forgive me, if the bowl was a little smaller or a little taller or a little wider, it wouldn’t be the Cup of our fathers and our forefathers, the Cup Bower won at forty-two, the Cup Baun won on a broken ankle, the one Pocket Rocket raised eleven times in twenty seasons. It might be some soaped up candy dish, but it wouldn’t be Stanley, which some nameless, long-dead silversmith crafted into hockey perfection just over one hundred years ago.
Our gratitude is beyond measure.