Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals 2004: 06
The Stanley Cup Journal

The plane lifted off from the tarmac of Tampa International Airport at 8:30 on the Sunday morning, winging its way to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Last fall, it seemed inconceivable that three sports franchises owned by Bill Davidson could possibly be in contention to win the championships of their respective sports, but at that moment, the dream was very possibly evolving into a reality.

The Stanley Cup is bookended by the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy and the WNBA Championship Trophy. All three were won by teams owned by business magnate Bill Davidson.
The eighty-one year old Davidson earned his money the hard way — by hard work. The company from which his wealth sprung — Guardian Industries — is arguably the largest and most successful glass manufacturer in the world, producing auto glass, industrial glass, fiberglass and a myriad of other products. Based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, Guardian is the basis from which Mr. Davidson's other dreams are allowed to take shape.

Bill Davidson's first venture into sports ownership occurred in 1974, when he was part of a group that purchased the then-woeful Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association. In 1998, Davidson bought the Detroit Shock of the WNBA, and in 1999, the sad sack NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning.

It's 2004. The Tampa Bay Lightning surprised the sports world by developing rapidly and collecting the Stanley Cup on June 7. On June 13, Davidson and his management team were heading to The Palace of Auburn Hills to see if their Pistons could take a commanding three games to one lead in the NBA championship.

* * *

The plane touched down in Detroit that morning at 11:15, the Stanley Cup in tow. Ron Campbell, the president of the Lightning, made the trip to Farmington Hills, Michigan so he could take the Stanley Cup to his mother. The nursing home in which Campbell's mother resides had never had so much excitement, and several of the residents fingered the names engraved on the Stanley Cup that had meant so much to Michigan residents through the years — Howe, Lindsay, Abel, Sawchuk, Kelly…

The Cup was then taken to The Palace of Auburn Hills, also owned by Mr. Davidson, where it was displayed in the offices beside the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy and the WNBA Championship Trophy. Fans were invited to get their pictures taken with all three championship trophies. Bill Davidson had a stranglehold on championships — his Lightning are Stanley Cup champions, his Shock are WNBA champions and he, along with most others in the area, were convinced he'd get the opportunity to win the third of the three championships by securing two more Piston victories.

Fans can hardly wait to see the trophies won by Bill Davidson's teams -- the Detroit Pistons won the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy, the Tampa Bay Lightning, of course, collected the Stanley Cup and the Detroit Shock won the WNBA Championship Trophy.
The irony of the situation is that the fan photos with the three glittering trophies was brought to a premature end when inclement weather shortened the photo session by fifteen minutes. The inclement weather? Lightning! How appropriate!

The Detroit Pistons played an outstanding ball game against the Los Angeles Lakers that Sunday, winning 88-80 to move up three games to one over the Lakers. Rasheed Wallace pumped in twenty-six points to lead the way for the Pistons.

On Monday, June 14, the Stanley Cup was returned to The Palace of Auburn Hills for a brief visit, then at ten o'clock, was taken next door to Guardian Industries. As the Stanley Cup was getting the last stroke of polish across its ancient yet beautiful base, Mr. Davidson's limousine pulled up. Appropriately, he was the first person to see hockey's Holy Grail that morning at Guardian. "Good morning, sir," bid the Cup Keeper. "Hopefully you'll have another championship to celebrate tomorrow." Davidson smiled, thanked the Keeper for his good wishes, then wistfully placed his hand on the empty spot where the names of the champion Tampa Bay Lightning will be engraved later this summer. After a moment, he stepped into his office. All his employees agree that Bill Davidson is an outstanding owner, unafraid of hard work or long hours.

Bill Davidson, owner of Guardian Industries, is also a major player in sporting circles...especially having his three major teams all champions!
On Monday afternoon, June 14, the Stanley Cup was flown to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York for a special dinner held by the Canadian Society of New York. There, Yvan Cournoyer was being was being honoured at the group's twenty-seventh annual dinner. Cournoyer, of course, is no stranger to the Stanley Cup, having been part of ten championships with the Montreal Canadiens through his Hall of Fame career. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance at the $500 a plate fundraiser, where guests dined on portobello mushroom appetizers, sliced tenderloin of beef with grilled asparagus and Strawberry Napoleon while listening to speakers Jean Beliveau, Scotty Bowman, Dennis Hull, Frank Mahovlich, broadcaster Brian McFarlane, Jim Pappin, Jean Potvin, Larry Robinson, Bill Torrey and Ed Westfall.

By the way, Bill Davidson's ownership regime did collect its third sporting championship trophy, following the WNBA Shock and the NHL Lightning when the Pistons dominated the Lakers 100 to 87 in game five on Tuesday, June 15 to clinch the NBA championship. Davidson beamed like the butcher's dog as he made his way down from his seat to the court and accepted the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy from NBA commissioner David Stern.

On Wednesday, the Stanley Cup Journal marches to the MacDill Air Force Base.

Kevin Shea is the Manager of Special Projects and Publishing at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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