Who could forget the photos of the Memorial Cup from their summer with the 2012 champion Shawinigan Cataractes? The trophy, later revealed to be a replica, was badly damaged -- its metal ripped, wooden base cracked, and the two figurines on either side of the hallowed prize went missing.
It caused a firestorm, particularly because the Memorial Cup honours the memory of war veterans. The culprit who admitted to damaging the trophy, defenceman Dillion Donnelly, was forced to pay for the damage, was suspended by the team for the summer (a largely symbolic gesture) and forced to write a letter of apology to the three league commissioners.
This year, there should be no such trouble. Why? Because the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads, who won the 2013 title in Saskatoon, Sask., aren't letting any of their players take it home.
Halifax GM Cam Russell says the decision was made by the organization.
"Obviously the players, the coaches, management -- everybody put a lot into this," said Russell of winning both the President's Cup and the Memorial Cup. "For me, I don't think you need the trophy home to make you feel like you actually won a Memorial Cup.
"What we've accomplished and what we've done, nobody can ever take that away from us. It's something we'll all remember forever."
The Memorial Cup is currently sitting in the Mooseheads office, though Russell notes the trophy has been and will continue to make its way around the community to raise funds for the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, visiting military families and war veterans.
According to the QMJHL, the winning teams are able to do whatever they wish with the trophy, though each organization is required to pay the league for an insurance policy worth $50,000 on the traveling, replica Memorial Cup. The original Memorial Cup is housed in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Teams must also sign a damage waiver for the President's Cup.
"As a player I never got the President's Cup (to take home) and that didn't bother me at all," said Russell, who won it twice with Hull in 1986 and 1988. "I still know I won it, so it wasn't that big a deal for me."
Russell would go on to play in the NHL after his junior career, but not everyone is as lucky. For some of the Mooseheads, winning this championship is as good as it’s going to get in hockey.
After winning the Memorial Cup, Halifax co-captain Stefan Fournier said the title was the perfect ending for his junior career.
"It made five years worth it,” said Fournier after defeating the Portland Winterhawks in the final in Saskatoon. “I don’t think people realize how grueling and how long it is playing into the end of May, but there’s a lot of resilience on this team."
It's a shame the players can't enjoy the fruits of that labour with their families, friends and greater communities. After all, the acknowledgment of achievement are what trophies are meant for in the first place. It should be celebrated.
And yes, the Memorial Cup has been damaged in the past. That's why it comes with an insurance policy. Odds are it'll be damaged in the future too, because accidents will always happen.
The Stanley Cup has been dented countless times, burned in a bonfire, taken apart, taken to bars, abandoned in strip clubs, used as a baptismal font, left in the bottom of swimming pools, used as a cereal bowl and God knows what else. That's all part of its lore. That's what makes part of winning it so special.
In the end, it should be up to the players to safeguard the Memorial Cup. It's their collective blood and sweat that paid for the right to hoist it as champions. It only seems fair that the people who have their names engraved on the trophy should also have their day to celebrate with it. They earned it.