Stanley, I’ve always maintained, had more fun in Edmonton. But I suspect Stanley has never been more bored than he has here this week.
Stanley, you see, is in quarantine with his handler, Phil Prichard, a.k.a. The Keeper of the Cup.
In many ways, the fun Stanley had in Edmonton in 1984, ’85, ’87, ’88 and ’90 is quite likely the reason Prichard got the job in the first place.
The ’80s era Oilers believed in taking Stanley to the fans and the nightly pub crawl was legendary. On one occasion, Stanley even showed up at a strip joint. One night, he even got wrecked … and ended up in the service department of a local car dealership getting the dents pounded out.
The other day, when Prichard checked himself into the J.W. Marriott for his quarantine, he tweeted a picture of the Stanley Cup sitting on the dresser in his hotel room.
They’ve been a lot of places together over the years, these two, but were never forced to sit through a quarantine.
“I’m not complaining. This is year 32 for me. And just being here is something,” said Prichard, an employee of the Hockey Hall of Fame. “The NHL has done a great job on the bubble. Hockey has been played to its usual high calibre level while everyone is safe and sound and I think the league is the envy of the entire sports world right now.”
Indeed. When this all started as the 24 teams checked into the bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, there was still great debate whether Prichard would be delivering the Stanley Cup here for commissioner Gary Bettman, who has also been here in quarantine, to present it at the end.
Monday, the league issued the latest update extending their clean sheet of COVID-19 testing to seven weeks inside the bubbles. Zero positives.
Stanley has yet to discover if he’ll be able to make the usual visits with Prichard on the day-with-the-Cup tradition that last year brought them to Callahoo, just north of Edmonton for a celebration with the community at the arena and visit to the home of St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube. But it’ll probably be determined on a case-by-case situation.
“The Stanley Cup off-season protocol is still being debated. I do expect it to travel to the winning team’s city,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told me here Monday.
I’ve always thought it would be a great assignment to follow Stanley around on today’s player-per-day tour and maybe have a few beers with Prichard telling some of the stories, off the record, that he can’t tell.
I’d especially like to get him to confess how it is for him at this stage of the playoffs as a fan.
I mean, who is he hoping will win this Eastern Conference Final that’s now gone to Game 6 following Jordan Eberle’s winner in double overtime Tuesday? Surely, he’s checked the rosters of the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning and the hometowns of the players and some of the destinations that might be involved.
Had he been cheering for the Golden Knights to be able to experience a Stanley Cup parade in Vegas? After all these years, is he looking forward to a parade in a Canadian city and maybe bringing Stanley back to Edmonton to visit some of the Cup’s old haunts that may still be around.
Prichard’s lips are zipped on that sort of stuff, but they’ve been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things together, these two.
So far, Prichard has been to 28 countries with Stanley.
They’ve been to the Great Wall of China and virtually ever hockey capital in the world. But Pritchard admits one thing: The smaller the town the player comes from, the more fun it tends to be.
“In the smaller communities, everyone comes out to the celebration and everyone knows everyone,” he said. “I love the first time to the town or village. Recently, we visited Phillipp Grubauer’s small mountain hometown in Bavaria. It had it’s own brewery and culture. We went mountain climbing among the farms and it was just a great day.
“Teemu Selanne’s day with the Cup in Helsinki was outstanding. He shared with everyone.
“Pat Maroon last year in St. Louis was marvelous. He was a hometown boy on his hometown team and it was pretty special for St. Louis fans.
Chris Simon took it back to his hometown in Wawa (Ont.) and shared it with kids in the community. Sidney Crosby did the same three times so far in Cole Harbour, N.S.
“I’m always thrilled to be a part of it, to see the smiles and the memories. It’s such a great thing to hoist the Cup in your hometown to share with all of the people who helped you along the journey toward becoming a Stanley Cup champion,” said Prichard.
So, for a few minutes prior to Game 6 Thursday between the Islanders and the Lightning, check out the rosters of the two teams and the already-through-to-the-finals Dallas Stars, and imagine if you were invited to tag along, the destinations that might be involved.
What team would you be hoping to win? It’s a fun exercise and adds a whole new perspective to watching a hockey game.
On Twitter: @byterryjones
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020