The Stanley Cup. It’s what this is all about.
If you don’t get a shiver of goosebumps or a tiny lump in your throat when the greatest trophy in all of sport is escorted onto the ice, with its historical records of all who lifted glory before gleaming from top to bottom, you just don’t understand.
Whether it’s Drew Doughty, who grew up idolizing Wayne Gretzky and plastered his room full of No. 99 posters, dreaming of winning the Cup with Los Angeles, or Anze Kopitar, who left home and country at 16 to play competitively in Sweden, all the sacrifice and dedication put forth by these players in their lifetimes explodes into a wide-range of different emotions when the 35-pound Cup is lifted. It’s the culmination of everything they, their family members and everyone close to them have invested in their endeavor. When Hockey Night in Canada’s Scott Oake interviews the players on the ice after the win, he is always sure to be introduced to family and friends, because it’s about more than the player. Though the Cup is king, it’s about more than the artifact alone.
The same goes for the men behind the team. Darryl Sutter, who got his first NHL head coaching gig in 1992, is finally able to bring Lord Stanley to Viking, Alta., as two of his brothers, Duane and Brent, have already been able to do. GM Dean Lombardi, long lambasted for the gradual and focused way he built up this team, finally had it all come together, making the many hours he and his scouting staff - who are away from home more often than not - put in all worth the day-to-day and year-to-year grind.
Behind the sound bites, highlights and multimillion-dollar contracts, the rest of us can forget NHLers and their managers are human beings just like you or me. A Stanley Cup celebration reminds us of the humanity of NHLers and that even on that monumental stage, life is bigger than all of it.
San Jose’s Dominic Moore, one of the better checkers in the game, let it be known last week that he didn’t return to the Sharks’ lineup after Game 3 of their opening round series against St. Louis because he discovered his wife had a rare form of liver cancer. As the hockey world celebrates the ending of another season and the pinnacle of so many careers, the tight-knit community is also thinking of Moore and wishing the best for him and his wife so they can both get back on track.
And even though Tim Thomas is a year removed from a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe performance, it looks as though he’s ready to ride off into the sunset from an abbreviated NHL career. The man has taken a lot of heat over his beliefs and the way he proclaims them to a free-speaking society, but if his decision is about family, getting away from it all and not a ploy to control a trade destination, how can any decent human being deny him that? After all the places he's played to stay in the game and keep his own Stanley Cup dreams alive, he's earned the right to make up his own mind.
Nicklas Lidstrom, a multiple Cup-winner who looked like he could play another five years, called it a career to go home to Sweden and spend time with his kids as they grow older.
And, of course, in a big moment like Monday night, the hockey world also remembered the players and coaches lost in the tragic Lokomotiv plane crash in September. Whether they were ever NHLers or not, everyone on that plane dreamt big and was hungry for hockey - a characteristic shared by the common pickup player in Toronto, the beer-leaguer in Los Angeles or any fanatic in between.
Fans and media alike expect the world from the best players in the game and with so much exposure to every team, every night, the appetite for immediate and consistent results often goes beyond what is humanly reasonable. We expect these players to behave and perform as robots, even though they bleed red, too.
While the Stanley Cup ceremony is a celebration of the champions and their families, it is also a reminder of everything good in this sport and that anyone with a pinch of luck and a load of desire can lift all his dreams over his head.
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web editor. His column appears regularly only on THN.com.
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