At a little after 5 a.m. on June 20, 2006, the Stanley Cup was propped up in the front seat of a truck driven by a man with a crooked nose and wide smile.
Rod Brind’Amour was going home and he was taking the Cup with him.
Hours before, the Carolina Hurricanes had beaten the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. The Cup had been passed around, on and off the ice. Adult beverages were consumed from it and in the mist of all the merriment the Cup had been dropped and dented, although quickly repaired.
As team captain, Brind’Amour said he was allowed to have the Cup to himself for a few hours, without the presence of the white-gloved “Keeper of the Cup” from the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Brind’Amour said. “I dropped my Dad off at the airport for an early flight. I went home and just sat in my sons’ room, in a chair, waiting for them to wake up.”
Forget waking up on Christmas morning. In the Brind’Amour household, waking up to the Stanley Cup was a bigger thrill.
“Later that day the team came over with all their kids for a big pool party and we were taking pictures with it,” Brind’Amour said. “It was nice to share it again with everybody that day.”
That story and others are being told and retold this weekend as the Cup is shared again. The Stanley Cup is in Raleigh for the 10-year anniversary of the Canes’ 2006 championship and a Cup ceremony was scheduled at center ice Saturday at PNC Arena before Carolina’s game against the New York Islanders.
One of the crew members who worked the Zamboni wanted to hold the Cup. So I handed him the Cup and he dropped it. It slipped out of his hands and I tried to catch it but it hit the ground and I took the blame.
Wally Tatomir, a Canes equipment manager in 2006
Wally Tatomir, then a team equipment manager, has a tale to tell. He’s the one who damaged the Cup. Sort of.
“One of the crew members who worked the Zamboni wanted to hold the Cup,” Tatomir said, smiling. “So I handed him the Cup and he dropped it. It slipped out of his hands and I tried to catch it but it hit the ground and I took the blame.”
Wrongly, perhaps. Jay Boriotti, who then worked on the ice crew, later said the Cup was wet and, well, it slipped from his grasp.
“Oh, I took the fall for it,” Tatomir said, laughing. “It had a little bend in it and we fixed it all up. We were told not to worry about it, that a lot worse things had happened to it.”
You think? Stories of the Cup are legendary.
Members of the Cup-winning team – players, coaches, support staff – are allowed to have their “Day with the Cup.” It has been tossed into swimming pools, drop-kicked into a canal, used for baptisms, filled with dog food, dropped into a bonfire.
Matt Cullen, now with the Pittsburgh Penguins, was a center on the 2006 team. He said he took the Cup back to Minnesota for a charity event.
“We had a huge whiffleball game for the Stanley Cup, which was cool,” Cullen said.
Cullen said he was on the winning team, again.
“I can say I won the Stanley Cup twice that year,” he quipped. “How many guys can say that?”
The Staals and the Cup
The Canes’ Eric Staal was 21 in 2006, in his second year in the NHL. He took the Cup back to his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario, to be admired by his parents, friends and his three younger brothers, Marc, Jordan and Jared.
Of the four Staal boys, only Eric touched the Cup on the visit. Such is the long-held superstition – that you should only touch the Cup after you win it.
“They kept their hands off it but pretty much every other family member was all over it,” Eric Staal said.
Three years later, Jordan Staal was a center on the Penguins when Pittsburgh claimed the 2009 Stanley Cup. He also took the Cup to Thunder Bay, where he and Eric were the ones handling it.
“We talked about it and we figured if you have your name on the Cup you’re allowed to touch it,” Jordan Staal said.
Marc Staal, a New York Rangers defenseman, still is waiting his turn to hold it. So is Jared, who is playing minor-league hockey.
Eric and Jordan Staal have something else in mind. How about winning another one for the Hurricanes, then handing it to each other on the ice?
“You always want to win one, but to do it alongside one of your siblings would be pretty special,” Jordan Staal said. “That’s what we want to do. That’s the ultimate goal.”