Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 21
The Stanley Cup Journal

Two bawdy Czechs kiss the Stanley Cup while in Kladno. The Cup had previously visited the city after the 2002 Red Wings' victory, when Jiri Slegr and Jiri Fischer took the Cup home. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The Stanley Cup traveled from Moscow to the Czech Republic on Thursday, August 3, arriving in Kladno, the birthplace of Frantisek Kaberle.

Often overshadowed by his brother, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas, and Jaromir Jagr, the Rangers' star who hails from the same hometown, Frantisek, or Frank as he is regularly called in North America, has been a steadying presence on NHL bluelines since his debut with the Kings in 1999-2000. After playing with the Thrashers for four full seasons, Kaberle joined the Carolina Hurricanes post-lockout and played a key role in the team's Stanley Cup run and subsequent championship. He even scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in the second period of Game 7!

Both brothers, Frantisek and Tomas, met the storied Cup at the airport, although Tomas was ever mindful of not touching the trophy so as not to jinx his Maple Leafs' chances in 2006-07. After the plane carrying the Cup landed, photos were taken and Frank insisted that his kid brother get in on some of them. Begrudgingly, and avoiding any contact whatsoever, Tomas forced out a grin and leaned in near the Cup.

At the Kladno Arena, Josef Vasicek (left) and Frantisek Kaberle proudly posed with the Stanley Cup. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The Kaberle boys took the Stanley Cup to the Kladno arena where they played during much of their youth. There must be something special in the water, as the ice seemingly holds magic. Not only the Kaberle kids, but Jagr, Patrik Elias, Michal Pivonka, Tomas Vokoun and Marek Zidlicky are all products of the fertile hockey system. Frantisek Kaberle Sr., a very fine defenseman in his own right during the 1970's, became a coach in the system and in his current role as an agent for the Orr Hockey Group, has expedited the import of Kladno talent into the NHL.

The next stop was the Kladno Lego factory. The enormously popular pastime of building items with Lego took on a new significance, as the employees at the plant had built an incredibly realistic-looking Lego version of the Stanley Cup.

Frantisek took the Cup to two local pubs, giving the public a great opportunity to ogle hockey's most cherished prize. The graph sisters (photo and auto) were definitely in prominence through the Kaberle afternoon.

The Cup was taken to the Kaberle family home. Although neither brother had won the Stanley Cup, it wasn't the first visit for the Cup to the Kaberle home. After winning the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2002, Jiri Slegr brought Stanley's bowl over for the Kaberle family to see.

Then, it was over to a new golf and country club, where Frank hosted a private party with the Cup. He met up with Slegr and Jiri Fischer there, both members of the 2002 Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. Fischer, who suffered a seizure on the bench during last season, assured all that he was fine and looking forward to the 2006-07 campaign.

The hero of the Stanley Cup-winning game after scoring the deciding goal in Game 7 versus Edmonton, the Canes' Kaberle took the trophy home to show the neighbours. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
While at the party, a retrospective on Frantisek Kaberle's career was screened, including footage as a youngster that had Frank blushing in the same shade of red as the Hurricanes' jersey.

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While in the Czech Republic, the Cup's routing next went to Prague, where at 9AM on Friday, August 4, 6'5" Josef Vasicek took possession of the Stanley Cup for his designated day. Although traded to Nashville last month, Josef was very proud to have played five seasons as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

The first stop was at the Slavia Arena in Prague, where Josef played first as a youngster and then during the lockout. Vasicek then signed autographs by the hundreds for excited fans at Eden Hall.

Then, the Stanley Cup was packed in its case for the 90-minute drive to Vasicek's hometown, Havlickuv Brod, a town of 25,000 located in the east Bohemia area of the Czech Republic.

Josef Vasicek, newly-traded to the Nashville Predators, nevertheless demonstrated his loyalty, returning to his birthplace, the town of Havlickuv Brod, with his championship sweater and his championship trophy. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)

The Cup was driven to the Vasicek family home, then to the outdoor arena where he had played as a teenager. Two more visits to local rinks preceded the highlight of the afternoon — a public event at the local square in Havlickuv Brod. There, Josef was presented with a large cake shaped like a hockey stick to commemorate the Hurricanes' achievement. "I am glad that I can make good on my promise to one day come and show the Stanley Cup to Havlickuv Brod," he stated. "My childhood dream has come true!"

Following the event, Vasicek took the Stanley Cup to Hotel Hurricane, which he owns and in which he lives when he's in the Czech Republic. Josef's Dad manages the business for his son. The Cup was taken by Vasicek into the bar, appropriately named Café 63 to reinforce his jersey number, a number he'll still wear with the Predators. Although the number is the same, the team sweater will be different, and we'll see whether Josef chooses to change the name of his hotel from Hotel Hurricane to Predators Place.

Celebrating to the repeated refrain of 'We Are The Champions,' Josef partied into the night before retiring to his suite. At 4:30 early on Saturday morning, Josef Vasicek bid goodbye to the Stanley Cup as it was readied to travel to Sweden by way of Frankfurt.

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Tuesday's Stanley Cup Journal turns the page to a visit to Sweden and host Niclas Wallin.

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Kevin Shea is the co-author of 'Lord Stanley-The Man Behind the Cup',
which will be published in October 2006 by Fenn Publishing.
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