It seems every time you open your Twitter feed these days a new video has surfaced with Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals partying with the Stanley Cup and doing a complete disservice to Freddie Mercury with their awful renditions of We Are The Champions. At this rate, the Capitals’ Stanley Cup hangover is going to be more literal than metaphorical next season.
It’s really tough to be hard on the Capitals for what they’re doing. Their unbridled joy at finally getting over the hump is something to behold, actually. And the fact is, instead of taking the Cup to a bunch of private parties for them and their super-rich friends, they’re sharing the experience with the people who have stood by them through all those disappointing and underachieving years and are probably just as elated as the players are. As one Washington writer observed, Ovechkin plus the Capitals plus the Cup are Dan Snyder’s (who owns the football team with the offensive nickname) worst nightmare because they are, one by one, converting every sports fan in D.C. to hockey.
There have been a few dissenting voices in all of this, those who believe the Capitals are not showing the Cup the reverence it deserves. Well, there are a couple of things on that. First, that ship sailed a long time ago. The NHL made the decision a long time ago to give the Cup to the players and allow them to celebrate with it, under supervision, of course. Second, the Capitals aren’t doing anything terribly disrespectful to the trophy. Third, everything the Capitals have done with the Cup has already been done, and a lot more. It’s just that they’re so public about it that it’s right there for everyone to see.
Abusing the Stanley Cup is as old as almost as old as the trophy itself. The 1905 Ottawa Senators, after soundly beating Dawson City in a Stanley Cup challenge, celebrated their victory at an Ottawa hotel. On their way home, one of the players dared another to punt the Cup into the Rideau Canal, which he did. When the team asked about the Cup’s whereabouts the next day, the players sheepishly went back and retrieved it from where it had landed. When the Montreal Canadiens won the Cup in 1924, they were on their way to a victory part at the owner’s house when the car they were driving got a flat tire. The players got out to repair the flat and left the Cup on the curb and went on their way. Hours later they went back to retrieve it.
Since then the Stanley Cup has seen everything from the bottom of swimming pools to discos to strip clubs. It has been tossed and dented. Sylvain Lefebvre had his daughter baptized in the Cup after winning it in 1996, not to be outdone two years later by Kris Draper’s daughter, who pooped in it. Clarke Gillies let his dog eat out of it once, which is only about a thousand times worse than anything the Capitals have done with it so far.
The Stanley Cup is the most beautiful trophy in all of professional sports, but it’s also the one that’s most accessible. The Vince Lombardi Trophy, which goes to the winner of the Super Bowl even though it isn’t even a bowl, gets held up for one minute after it’s presented and we basically never see it again. People who are not hockey fans know what the Stanley Cup is, but if you’re not a basketball fan, you probably have no idea what the Larry O’Brien Trophy is. The league makes a new one every year and has it done at Tiffany & Co. Seriously. And don’t even get us started on that abomination that is the World Series Trophy. It’s only a matter of time before somebody’s eye gets poked out by that thing.
The Stanley Cup, meanwhile, is barrel chested and majestic and steeped in tradition. It weighs 34.5 pounds, four-and-a-half pounds heavier than the World Series Trophy and the heaviest of the four in North American professional sports. Which is only fitting, since it’s the most difficult one to win.
So if the Washington Capitals want to parade it around in a drunken stupor to celebrate their accomplishment, we say they should go for it. This was years in the making and, the Pittsburgh Penguins and their consecutive Cup wins not withstanding, has proven to be an ephemeral experience. That said, whoever follows the Cup around for the summer might just want to keep a closer eye on it when it makes its tour of Russia.
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