Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 20
The Stanley Cup Journal

Sartorially resplendent in suit and Cup, Anton Babchuk enjoys his day with Lord Stanley's trophy in Kiev, Ukraine. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The Stanley Cup ventured to Ukraine on Tuesday, the first day of August, under the sizeable arms of 6'5" Anton Babchuk, the young prospect Carolina picked up from Chicago in a January 2006 trade.

The Cup arrived on a flight from Zurich, Switzerland at 2:00 that afternoon, and immediately was the subject of a press conference. After answering several questions, Anton walked with the Stanley Cup out front of the airport, where a blast of confetti was shot into the air to greet him. Two women wearing traditional Ukrainian costumes welcomed Anton with khleb i sol (bread and salt), an age-old greeting. A loaf of bread was placed on a round dish covered with an embroidered towel, with a shaker filled with salt placed on top of the load to symbolize that Anton, as the returning visitor, will never be without the necessities of life.

Babchuk took a bite from the loaf for luck, then placed the Stanley Cup in a Cadillac convertible, while he boarded a limousine following behind. A crush of public mobbed the automobiles as they drove through Kiev on their way to a hockey complex. Waiting there was a mob of fans, anxious to see the Stanley Cup and their local hero. More press also waited for Babchuk and the Stanley Cup. "I wish hockey was as popular as soccer in Ukraine," he told those in attendance. "If it was, I gladly would have played for a team in Kiev." The crowd roared at the possibility.

A limousine carried Babchuk while a convertible toted the Stanley Cup to an arena complex, where the young Cane was mobbed by fans. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Anton grabbed a quick bite to eat in the Arena Sports Bar, which featured among its memorabilia, a Team Canada sweater and a photograph of Ruslan Fedotenko with the Stanley Cup from his victory with Tampa Bay in 2004.

The final stop for Babchuk was the Freedom Concert Hall where, after even more interviews were completed, family and friends celebrated with a feast of food and drink to commemorate the accomplishments of Anton and his Carolina Hurricane teammates.

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One of those teammates was Oleg Tverdovsky, who joined Babchuk at the Kiev celebration. It was a fitting handoff from one able 'Cane to another. At 11 that evening, Tverdovsky flew with the Stanley Cup on a private plane to Omsk, a city located in south west Siberia some 2,700 miles from Moscow.

The flight lasted all night, arriving in Omsk at 8AM on Wednesday, August 2. An astonishing crowd of fans waited at the Russian Hockey Hall of Fame to greet Oleg and the famous hockey trophy. Civic officials greeted Tverdovsky, who was also part of the Devils' Stanley Cup championship in 2003. In fact, Oleg is the only player to have won four different titles in the last four years. After winning with the Devils, Oleg captained the Omsk Avangard squad to the Russian Super League championship in 2004, won the European Champions Cup with Avangard in 2005 and, of course, collected the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006.

After spending two seasons away from the NHL, playing in Omsk, Tverdovsky returned to the Avangard Hockey Center with the reward he won for a second time. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Oleg then took the Cup to the Avangard Hockey Center, a familiar locale for the defenseman who played for Omsk Avangard in 2003-04 and the locked-out 2004-05 season before returning to the NHL in 2006-07. At the arena, Tverdovsky conducted a one-hour session for some young players, who clearly were incredulous that the Oleg Tverdovsky was passing along Stanley Cup-caliber hockey tips to them. Local dignitaries met Oleg at the arena and made several speeches and dedications to the local hero. Tverdovsky responded by saying, "I'd like to express my thanks to Leonid Polezhaev (the governor of the Omsk region) and to Konstantin Potapov (president of the Avangard team) that they helped organize this trip!"

A yellow convertible took Tverdovsky and the Cup to a civic reception, where 4,000 people awaited the arrival. Oleg was mobbed as he carried the Stanley Cup down a red carpet. After further speeches and awards, Tverdovsky again climbed into the convertible, but as the car pulled away, in spite of a police motorcycle escort, hundreds of fans chased the car, trying desperately to touch the Stanley Cup.

The car, 'Cane and Cup drove through the streets of Omsk to the airport, where the itinerary indicated that Moscow was the next destination, leaving at 1PM. By 4, the championship entourage arrived in the Russian capital, and drove to a large arena. After visiting the locker room, Oleg took the Stanley Cup out onto the ice for photographs. At a small restaurant in the arena, champagne was served to honour the arrival of both Tverdovsky and the historic hockey trophy.

At the arena, Oleg gave young hockey pupils a lesson they'd never forget -- first, a session on-ice and then one on the realization of dreams. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
A huge press conference was held at the Gold's Gym where Oleg works out while in Moscow. Alexei Kovalev, a Stanley Cup champion with the New York Rangers in 1994, and Viacheslav Fetisov, a three-time winner (Detroit in 1997 and 1998 as well as New Jersey in 2000), arrived to help their comrade celebrate. Journalists peppered Tverdovsky with questions, to which he seemed only too happy to respond. When asked if he was surprised to have won the Stanley Cup with Carolina, Oleg expressed his pleasure: "From the beginning of the season, nobody really believed that the Carolina Hurricanes could have a chance to play in the playoffs and have a chance to win the Cup. Actually, going into the playoffs, we were already first or second in the regular season, and going into the playoffs, we started winning and the dream came true — our team won the Cup. Everything is possible in professional sport now."

When questions were exhausted (as was Oleg), the Stanley Cup was taken to the ultra-exclusive Minister's Club, which traditionally is reserved for either dignitaries or special occasions. Then, it was back to Gold's Gym at 7PM for a public reception.

Next door is arguably the most highly-regarded restaurant in Moscow, and that location was chosen for a formal dinner celebration for approximately 100 people. A video chronicling Tverdovsky's career was screened, followed by incredible food, dancing, music and speeches. Slava Fetisov was one of the many celebrants who joined Oleg Tverdovsky that evening. Winners of hockey trivia contests received bottles of wine with Oleg's picture on the label, autographed by the 'Canes defenseman. The party continued strong until 2:30 the next morning.

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Turning the page of the Stanley Cup Journal, on Friday, you'll travel to the Czech Republic to discover how Frantisek Kaberle and Josef Vasicek planned their Stanley Cup celebration.

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Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and On-Line Features at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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