While there are many advantages to being the GM of the Stanley Cup champions, one of my personal highlights from the 2004 season was watching my children interact not only with the Cup itself but also the Cup’s keepers.
As GM I was afforded the opportunity to spend more than one day with the trophy and do so in some incredible locations. On my “official” day with the Cup it had a place of honor in a homecoming parade for troops from the National Guard unit in my hometown. Later it was on display for season ticket holders of my former team, the Hershey Bears, before concluding the day at an intimate party for friends and family at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center.
During the lockout, our team made liberal use of the Cup in an effort to keep fan interest at a zenith. We had the trophy in Tampa for everything from an art gallery opening of photos taken by our team photographer during the Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup final, to various season ticket and sponsor events. One of the visits coincided with the baptism of my youngest son, Kevin, born in November 2004. We were able to use the Cup as the baptismal font for his baptism, an experience he will be reminded of by his siblings the rest of his life.
However, the thrill for me was watching my then 12-year-old daughter, Theresa, 10-year-old son, Bobby, and eight-year-old daughter, Libby, interact with the men who traveled with the Cup on its journeys. The luck of the draw was such that while we were fortunate enough to have both Mike Bolt and Walt Neubrand as our Cup keepers, we seemed to spend more time with Walt.
A kind and gracious long-suffering Leafs fan, Walt permitted my children to get up close and personal not only to the Cup, but to him as well. He allowed them to help him clean the Cup and keep it polished, help him lift the Cup out of its protective case and then lift the case back into his rental car, and to be protective of it just as he was when on duty. They posed with the Cup in their beds, they drank non-alcoholic bubbly and ate popcorn from its bowl and they learned some of its unique history as Walt and Mike regaled anyone who asked with interesting facts and figures. My three-year-old son, Ryan, took the Cup to “show and tell” at his pre-school.
For the past five years my children have corresponded with Walt, exchanging letters keeping up on his family, his teaching job, his new role as daddy to his own girl, Brooke, and sharing their own successes and new interests, while gently chiding him about his beloved Leafs.
There are many wonderful experiences for those who win the Cup. For me, being able to include my children and seeing them make a new friend for life has been priceless.
Jay Feaster is a former GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he took over in 2002 and helped build the team into a Stanley Cup champion in 2004. As he did last season, he will blog on THN.com throughout the 2008-09 campaign. Read his other entries HERE.