Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals 2004: 34
The Stanley Cup Journal

Tampa forward Ben Clymer posed with the Stanley Cup and his two biggest fans.
The Stanley Cup was being flown from Montreal to Minneapolis the evening of Tuesday, August 10. Tampa's Ben Clymer was next in line to spend his day with the Cup. Who should be on that same flight but Randy McKay, who was a member of the Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils in 1995 and 2000. McKay was excited to be on the same flight as hockey's Holy Grail, and talked excitedly about his new position with Michigan Tech's hockey program in Houghton, Michigan.

The Cup landed in Minneapolis and was met by Lightning winger Ben Clymer, who took the trophy to his condominium, hung out and had a few pictures taken. Then, it was over to Chino Latino, an exceptional restaurant. Ben's mother and father and other members of the family met him there, as did a few NHLers who live in the Minneapolis area, including the Islanders' Mark Parrish. The food at Chino Latino was amazing — Lamma Island salty squid, crispy fried calamari, jerk chicken served with fried plantain — all eaten with rainbow-coloured chopsticks. Ben's guests drank champagne out of the Cup while others spent time reading the names of previous champions who have played on a Stanley Cup champion.

Ben then took the Cup to The Independent, a bar fiercely proud of the fact it is locally-owned and not the franchised outlet of a corporate entity. With Betty Page-style cheesecake paintings decorating the walls, Clymer and his guests discovered (over and over again!) that sixteen beers will fill the Stanley Cup's bowl to the brim. Ben left with the Cup for his home at 3:30 that morning.

Ben Clymer happily signed autographs and posed for photos with the Stanley Cup at the Bloomington Ice Garden.
Wednesday morning started early with a trip to the Calhoun Beach Club; the gym where Ben Clymer works out with other hockey players like former NHLer Shjon Podein. Then, Ben surprised the patrons at Caribou Coffee with a spontaneous visit. Whether it was the caffeine or the excitement of the Stanley Cup's presence, I'm not certain, but people sure were buzzing that morning! Clymer then spent three hours at the Bloomington Ice Garden where the Stanley Cup was publicly displayed for fans to view and get a photograph plus an autograph from Ben.

Clymer dropped into Westwood Sports to say hello and surprised the managers there at the sports store, then had photos taken with the staff at the Olympic Hill Golf Course where he is a member.

It was lunch-time, and Ben met his parents, both grandmothers and assorted friends at an exceptional restaurant called D'Amico & Sons. The Lightning forward made the table howl when he dished Gulf shrimp spaghetti out of the bowl of the Cup. The historic trophy was then placed at a separate table, and each guest took turns examining the litany of names individually engraved into the barrel of the Stanley Cup. The Clymer clan loved discussing the lore that accompanies the 111-year old trophy.

Ben's father proceeded to tell a story about Ben's NHL debut in 1999. "Ben was playing college hockey with Minnesota when he decided he was going to go the major junior route to try to make the NHL," Mr. Clymer started. "I wasn't sure if that was the best move, but stand behind any decision Ben makes. He played a season in Seattle, then gets signed as a free agent by the Lightning. His mother and I were thrilled. Our son's dream was realized when he played his first NHL game on October 16, 1999 against Atlanta. Well, very late one night a while later, we got a phonecall. It was Ben. I asked, 'Is everything all right?' He said, 'Well, yeah Dad, but just don't use your credit card for the next little while.' I said, 'Why not, Ben?' He said, 'Dad, we just had our rookie dinner and I'm the only rookie on the team so I had to pick up the tab.' I gulped, and asked, 'How much, Ben?' He said, 'I'm afraid to tell you,' so I said, 'A thousand dollars?' Ben said, 'No, higher.' I said, 'Two thousand?' 'Nope.' 'Five thousand?' 'Uh uh,' Ben said. 'Higher.' Finally, I said, 'Ben, how much?' He whispered, 'Eleven thousand dollars!' Welcome to the NHL, huh? I'm a working man. I didn't even think my card would hold that much!"

In the night skies of Minneapolis, it's hard to decide which is brighter, the reflective material in the local fire crew's jackets or Ben Clymer's smile holding
the Stanley Cup!
After lunch, Ben took the Stanley Cup over to a rink where a lot of the local boys signed to NHL contracts practice. Superstition being what it is, several of the players stayed away from the Cup, hoping not to jinx their chance to spend a day with Lord Stanley's legacy themselves.

That evening, a 28-seat Hummer limo took Clymer, the Cup and special friends back to the Olympic Hill Golf Course where he was guest of honour at a reception for two hundred people. A stretch limousine took the overflow of guests to the party.

After dinner, Ben carried the Cup to Sally's Saloon and Eatery in the Stadium Village area. This was where Clymer hung out when he was attending the University of Minnesota. Patrons got the thrill of their lives when Clymer allowed guests the opportunity to drink out of the Cup.

Speaking of drink, that's exactly where Clymer went next — a bar called Drink, where he and friends met for a private party that went until 2:30. They left there and next went to a house party with the Cup, celebrating until five o'clock in the morning.

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Former NHL star Dirk Graham celebrated his new appointment as head coach of the Springfield Falcons, Tampa's AHL team, with an evening hosting the Stanley Cup.
On Thursday, the twelfth of August, two of the Tampa Bay Lightning's scouts shared a day with the Stanley Cup. Dave Heitz, the scout who handles U.S. colleges, took the Stanley Cup around to several Minneapolis area arenas. He then had Lord Stanley's Cup on display for three hours, allowing hundreds in the Twin Cities to get a close-up glimpse at hockey's most revered trophy.

The Stanley Cup was then flown to Phoenix, Arizona, where Dirk Graham took his turn with the trophy. It was a frantic day for Dirk — his home was all packed up in anticipation of beginning his new role as head coach of the Springfield Falcons, Tampa Bay's new American Hockey League affiliate. Last season, Graham was the Lightning's Western professional scout.

Dirk, who, as a player, split twelve NHL seasons between Minnesota and Chicago, was enjoying his first taste of a Stanley Cup championship. Family members and friends from Chicago quietly celebrated with Graham. On Friday the thirteenth, Dirk flew to Springfield while the Stanley Cup flew to Denver, Colorado.

Tampa's strength and conditioning coach, Eric Lawson, poses with wife Andreanna and kids Tim, Kayla and Chris, in Palmer Lake, Colorado.
Eric Lawson, the Lightning's strength and conditioning coach, met the Stanley Cup and took the prized trophy to nearby Palmer Lake. Lawson's wife Andreanna and children Tim, Chris and Kayla were anxiously waiting for Eric to arrive with the Cup. Friends joined the Lawsons at their home, too. Photographs were taken and emotional speeches made. Eric was visibly moved as person after person spoke about the significance of winning the Stanley Cup and the dedication Eric has put into his career. Prior to joining the Lightning three years ago, Lawson spent five years designing programs for the United States Olympic Committee and its National Team athletes.

Eric took the Stanley Cup to a gazebo area in the Town of Palmer Lake where locals spent close to three hours observing the glittering hockey trophy. "Wow, there are more people here than I imagined," smiled Lawson.

That afternoon, Eric made some surprise stops at a number of locations in the town, including the fire department and the high school where his son, a senior, was helping prepare freshman for their entry into the world of high school.

Eric then took the Stanley Cup back to his home, where the family hosted a party. Most of the guests were friends of the children, so the house was filled with celebrants in their late teens and early twenties. Eric and Andreanna beamed as they proudly watched the party continue until 2AM.

On Friday, you'll fly to Vegas with John Grahame on the Stanley Cup Journal express. Engage your seatbelts and observe the 'No Smoking' sign and we'll see you then!

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

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