Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 25
The Stanley Cup Journal

The Stanley Cup sits to the side of the aircraft before boarding for yet another destination.
The Stanley Cup sits to the side of the aircraft before boarding for yet another destination.
(August 4, 2003) - Okay, so you have twenty-five championship players, plus coaches and executives each eager to schedule a day with the Stanley Cup. Oh, but they're scattered all over the world - from Alton Bay to Anchorage, from Moose Lake to Montreal and York, Maine to the Ukraine. How in heaven's name do you organize them all, making everybody as happy as possible? Well, you might think it'd be easier to plan the routing by throwing darts at a wall map, but in fact, an extraordinary amount of work goes into planning the Stanley Cup's itinerary for the summer.

The negotiation begins as soon as a team wins the Stanley Cup. Players start to suggest when and where they'd like to take the Cup. Traditionally, they share their thoughts with the general manager, who takes all the ideas and tries to assemble a rough agenda. This spring, for example, Lou Lamoriello and his executive assistant have been working on the itinerary for the New Jersey Devils. But a final itinerary becomes a committee decision also involving the National Hockey League and the Hockey Hall of Fame. Together, the parties decide on the routing that makes the most sense for the jubilant Devils' players and for the Stanley Cup.

The Stanley Cup goes through airport X-Rays in Prague, Czech Republic.
The Stanley Cup goes through airport X-Rays in Prague, Czech Republic.
Time is precious and not to be wasted as the summer is short enough, and with thirty or more Devils needing to be fit into an itinerary can be a challenge. But there is a financial aspect that has to make sense too. Although it may be easier to send the Stanley Cup from Greece, New York to Anchorage, Alaska to Stockholm, Sweden in order to satisfy every player's wishes, the economical side makes routing the Cup so arbitrarily a disaster. A geographical approach makes much more sense. For example, through July, the Stanley Cup was predominantly visiting New England destinations. During the first two weeks of August, the Stanley Cup will cover European destinations for visits with Tommy Albelin (Sweden), Jiri Bicek (Slovakia), Sergei Brylin (Russia), Patrik Elias (Czech Republic), Richard Smehlik (Czech Republic) and Oleg Tverdovsky (Ukraine). Through the latter days of August, the Stanley Cup will be in Western Canada and the Southwest United States.

After discussions between the team, the NHL and the Hockey Hall of Fame, final decisions are made by the hockey club. If there are any conflicting days requested, decisions are often made favouring the captain, assistant captains and taking into account a player's tenure on the team. The players understand these decisions, and are pleased just to be able to celebrate with the Stanley Cup. Then, the travel agent gets involved to take all the ideas and turn them into reality. Mississauga, Ontario-based Sportscorp Travel Limited handles the specific travel plans. If they have to get the Stanley Cup and a Keeper from New Jersey to Alaska for a certain day and time, they start to spin their magic. And it is magic, as Sportscorp has to be prepared to make the near-impossible possible and often to book or change a flight on short notice. Sportscorp has been brilliantly stickhandling the Stanley Cup's travel itinerary since 1988, but their clients also include the Hockey Hall of Fame, some of the NHL's travel needs, the Toronto Maple Leafs, lacrosse's Toronto Rock, some of the NBA Toronto Raptors' travel, the Ottawa Renegades of the Canadian Football League, the Canadian scouting staffs for the Phoenix Coyotes and Atlanta Thrashers, some Ontario Hockey League teams and Newport Sports, Don Meehan's player agency.

Russian security escorts Lord Stanley upon its arrival at the airport.
Russian security escorts Lord Stanley upon its arrival at the airport.
But wait! Travelling with the Stanley Cup is not quite as easy as packing the historic trophy into its sturdy, custom-built case and putting it into the back of a car or the cargo hold of a plane. Specific paperwork is needed to get the Cup across borders. Visas need to be secured, and that takes time, especially in countries that were once under Communist rule. This summer, for example, Oleg Tverdovsky originally planned to travel to Russia, but decided he wanted instead to take the Stanley Cup to the Ukraine. The Stanley Cup needed a multi-entry visa in order to accomplish the visit. "There are legal formalities that need to be addressed," explains Phil Pritchard, the VP of Hockey Operations for the Hockey Hall of Fame. "We are regular visitors to embassies and consulates." But visas aren't approved on the spot. Ordinarily, it takes fourteen days to approve a visa, but the Stanley Cup's schedule doesn't always permit that kind of lead time. "No, it certainly doesn't," laughs Pritchard. "Last week, the Czech Republic approved the visa for the Stanley Cup on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I went to both the Russian Consulate and the Ukrainian Embassy first thing in the morning, needing visas for the Stanley Cup and our Cup Keepers. I filled out forms and pleaded my case, but there is a lot of paperwork involved. I finally got the Russian visa mid-afternoon and then at 5:30, I left the Ukrainian Embassy with everything approved. The Stanley Cup went directly to the airport and was on a flight at 6:50 that same night."

Peter Forsberg of the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche was the first player to take the Stanley Cup out of North America when he took the Cup to Sweden in 1996. Since then, the Cup has become a regular summer visitor to European destinations. The day will soon arrive when championship visits will extend to more distant locations, too, and that is an opportunity relished by both the NHL and the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Stanley Cup takes a seat and is ready for its next stop.
The Stanley Cup takes a seat and is ready for its next stop.
The Hockey Hall of Fame and the National Hockey League work closely with airlines, border personnel, local police departments, security companies, the team, the player, his family and sometimes an agent in order to make Stanley Cup dreams come true. Often, a charity will be also involved and the parties work in tandem with those organizations, too.

What matters ultimately is making certain the championship organization covers each of its players and appropriate staff. Behind the scenes, many unheralded individuals do everything necessary to ensure that each player enjoys a day with the Stanley Cup that is both flawless and memorable. Concludes Pritchard, "When travel itineraries seem impossible, the possible seems to happen. It's all because of the magic of the Stanley Cup."

Wednesday, Colin White's day in Halifax, Nova Scotia with the Stanley Cup is chronicled on Stanley Cup Journal.

Kevin Shea writes hockey history out of his Toronto home.

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