Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals 2004: 20
The Stanley Cup Journal

The Stanley Cup arrived in Belarus for its first time ever. Nikolai Khabibulin took the Cup to Junost, an arena in Minsk, where security officers posed with the visiting trophy.
The 'Bulin Wall. It was all but impenetrable during the playoffs. Although teammate Brad Richard earned the Conn Smythe as most valuable playoff performer, there certainly was a case to be made for a number of other Lightning players, not the least of which could be Nikolai Khabibulin.

The Stanley Cup has visited a great number of places — some rustic and others exotic. The trophy is worshipped wherever it goes, but up until Saturday, July 17, the Stanley Cup had never been to Belarus. With Nikolai Khabibulin part of a championship Lightning squad, he elected to spend his day with the Cup in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus. Nikolai was actually born in Sverlovsk, Russia, but his wife Victoria is from Belarus and Nikolai, Victoria and their daughter Sasha call Minsk their off-season home.

The Lightning's star netminder participated in an all-star game in which Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko was one of Khabibulin's teammates. Pictured is the game ticket (top) and invitation (bottom).
Belarus is a beautiful country; a historic country landlocked by neighbours Russia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and the Ukraine. During World War II, the vast majority of Minsk lay in ruins, destroyed by warring factions, but the city has now been built up to its pre-war opulence and boasts a population of almost 1.8 million. Although Minsk has been restored, the tragedy of war is never to be forgotten by residents, who built the Great Patriotic War Memorial in Skoriny, just outside of Minsk.

The 'Bulin Wall triumphed again, although this time, didn't have teammates like St. Louis, Richards and Lecavalier to enhance his chances.
When the plane touched down at the Minsk Airport, a throng of better than fifty media members awaited the Stanley Cup's first ever moments in Belarus. Also waiting were Nikolai and his daughter Sasha. Khabibulin held a press conference at the airport, welcoming the Stanley Cup, then took the trophy to Junost, an arena in Minsk. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko donned hockey equipment and took to the ice along with members of the national team abetted by Nikolai Khabibulin in goal to face off against Junost Minsk. Teammates continually fed the president passes on the tape of his stick until at long last, he beat the netminder for Junost Minsk (and not exactly like a rented mule!)

Hundreds lined up outside the Junost arena in Minsk to see Nikolai and the Stanley Cup following the special all-star contest.
Nikolai took the Stanley Cup to a private party hosted by his brother-in-law at a legion club nearby, where the evening ended in further celebration.

Nikolai was the guest of honour, along with the Stanley Cup, at a private party thrown by his wife Victoria's brother.
Sunday, the Stanley Cup was taken to picturesque Gorky Park, normally a place of tranquility situated beside the river and Pobedy Square. The solitude evaporated Sunday, though, when the Stanley Cup was displayed for three and a half hours in front of the public, who lined up to see hockey's pre-eminent trophy and one of the games premier goalies. Afterwards, Nikolai and the Cup were guests of honour at a luncheon hosted by the Belarus Hockey Federation.

The Stanley Cup was then packed and taken so Nikolai Khabibulin, his wife and daughter could get photographs taken with parents and grandparents. Sunday night, as Khabibulin's day with the Cup wound down, a reception was held to further celebrate the Tampa Bay's victory, and the first visit of the Stanley Cup to Belarus.

Monday, it's a visit to Kiev, Ukraine, spent with Stanley Cup hero Ruslan Fedotenko, and we'll have it here for you at Stanley Cup Journal.

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

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