August 20, 2010
MADISON, Wis. — When the hockey gods blessed my beloved Chicago Blackhawks with the Stanley Cup, I knew the opportunity to write a postseason Puck Daddy piece would be infinitely better than the time I waxed poetic about the death of my 2009 playoff beard.
But I also knew I had to pick my spot wisely. I didn't want my piece to be a sentimental ode to the generations who survived Bill Wirtz and were finally able to taste glory. That's because Michael Farber did that better than anyone in the June 21 Sports Illustrated and I certainly didn't want to even think about trying to top that goosebump-giving effort.
(Besides, I was basically unable to do anything but cry, blubber and coo for about an entire month after Kane's overtime shot in Game 6 somehow slipped through Leighton's legs. Wysh would've had to edit out about 83 ZOMGs! from my proposal to put Jonathan Toews'(notes) face on every piece of a new kind of joint American-Canadian currency.)
After all, I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison a few years before Burish captained the 2006 team to the school's sixth NCAA title and I cut my journalistic teeth covering the Dany Heatley(notes) and Steve Reinprecht teams for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
What's more, Madison was also the city where I became intimately acquainted with cups (the red plastic kind), and a party was scheduled for The Kollege Klub, the fratastic hockey bar where I and thousands of other nervous 19-year-olds first used poorly made IDs from California to gain admittance.
(Indeed, when I told a fellow Badger of the Cup's destination, he remarked: "Isn't the Cup over 21 years old? Certainly it can get in somewhere else.")
But if Burish and friends were going to turn the people's trophy into the best beer bong this side of the four-story jobs out by Camp Randall, I was going to be there to document it.
And so I set out early Wednesday morning and made the three-hour drive from Chicago to Madison. I first showed up at the Kohl Center for Burish's two-hour public picture opportunity with the Cup. Later, I set up shop at the KK for Lord Stanley's highly anticipated appearance.
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OK, confession time: Part of the reason I drove 150 miles to Wisconsin to see a Cup that was won by a Chicago team is that it's been hard to get any face time with the trophy in the Windy City. The days after the Stanley Cup win were marked by visits to clubs and bars filled with phonies who had become Hawks fans three weeks earlier and the ensuing public showings were mob scenes because that's what happens when the Stanley Cup belongs to your town for the first time since 1961. I chased a few vague leads on Twitter hoping for a semi-spontaneous appearance by Stanley, but was never lucky enough to cross paths with the notorious party animal.
I figured a trip to Madison might cut down on some of the static and for the most part that was true. The line to see the Cup at the Kohl Center was an easy hour-long wait and the atmosphere was laid back as Burish signed autographs and posed for pictures for those who wanted them.
And then, holy smokes! After pledging that I'd never take my picture with the Cup until it belonged to the Blackhawks, I got my first shot with it. I was amazed at how light it felt up top and might have even tried to hoist it over my head had I not heard that security wigged out when some other guy tried it earlier.
Here's your favorite baseball blogger at the exact moment I ensured my old roller hockey team — aptly named "Dazed and Confused" — will never win the Cup. (Yes, it was worth it.)
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While the Kohl Center was a breeze, The Kollege Klub was a completely different story as 500 people had replied affirmative to the invitation on Facebook and it seemed that everyone had shown up to party with the Cup and Burish, Madison's biggest mayor since Cecil Martin.
I had hoped that there'd be a possibility for a little more informal interaction with the Cup like the time my friend was in a near-empty Northwoods bar when Brian Rafalski(notes) walked in with the trophy and let everyone there drink from it.
Maybe I could even take a picture while holding it over my head.
Alas, there were too many people, and Burish and his VIPs were escorted to a roped-off area in the back room as the rest of us gathered around to gawk.
(For those of you wondering why I just didn't use my Y! Sports credentials, let it be known that I prefer keeping my hockey status strictly on the fan level. No Tim Tebow signature situations for me, thank you.)
Though that was a little disappointing, I wasn't under the illustion that I was entitled to anything and anything would have just been considered gravy. After all, how can you be upset when your team resurrects itself and wins the Stanley Freakin' Cup? Especially when you yourself actually didn't win it as an actual member of the team?
(Though I consider them important contributions, buying season tickets, watching almost every game and growing another awesome playoff beard probably didn't have too big of an impact on the overall outcome of the season.)
Also putting things into perspective was the fact that there were plenty of people in the same situation as me. Let's take a look at them as we venture into the photo essay portion of this post:
Here's Blake Geoffrion. He won the Hobey Baker Award as a member of the NCAA finalist Badgers last season and is headed to play for the Nashville Predators. As a player still hoping to win the Cup for the first time, any contact was strictly forbidden, just as it was for ...
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... current Blackhawk (and former Badger) Jack Skille(notes). The forward spent too much time in Rockford last season to get his name placed on the Cup, but he'll be getting his own chance over the next few years. Please note his respectful distance and the fact he's choosing to drink his beer out of the more traditional bottle. Attaboy, Jack. Way to stay jinx-free.
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As you can sort of see in this shot, people were lined up five-six deep to get a look at the Cup, but none of them got a chance to quench their thirst from Lord Stanley.
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Not even this guy with a Erik Kramer-autographed Chicago Bears hat.
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So who did get to drink out of the Cup?
The man of the moment for one, obviously. And as the "cup keeper" told me at the KK, "Only Adam gets to decide who drinks out of the Cup tonight."
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Burish also invited plenty of friends from the UW hockey team and wasn't shy about cracking open a bottle of Miller Lite and tipping the Cup for anyone who wanted a sip.
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Guys who wear sunglasses inside a bar at night seemed to get special preference.
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As did two of the many good-looking girls who showed up to say hey to Burish.
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Then there was the good-looking girl who was wearing sunglasses inside a bar at night. She pretty much had the daily double going there — as well as a shirt with an actual back, unlike this girl.
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Finally, I found out via Twitter the next morning that a few guys near the front of the bar got to drink out of the Cup near the end of the night, just after I had left to get back to Chicago.
"A few of us had to pony up a few C-notes to the bartender, but it was well worth it," this guy told me on Twitter. "We caught him on his way out."
A $100 bribe to drink out of the Cup? That's the KK I know and love! And yeah, I would've done it, if only to see the look on Wyshynski's face when I turned in that expense.
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All in all, though, it was an amazing experience and one that I hope every hockey fan gets to experience at some point in their lives. (Well, except for my St. Louis Blues buddies from Joe Sports Fan and any Detroit Red Wings fan, ever again. I haven't lightened up that much on those rivalries.)
Seriously, if you had told my college self that I'd be back in the same KK booth, watching as a Blackhawks player hauled the actual Stanley Cup down the same steps I was about to stagger up, I would have called you a liar. And then I would've insisted you order another round so we could toast what once seemed like only the most far-fetched of fantasies.
To our Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks!
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(No St. Louis or Detroit fans, please.)