Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 03
The Stanley Cup Journal

Hockey's ultimate prize is placed in front of the historic statue Mannekin Pis. (Phil Pritchard/HHOF)
On Sunday, April 13, 2008, hockey's greatest trophy, the Stanley Cup, was transported to Belgium as part of a three-day event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). Although the Stanley Cup has visited points throughout the world, it was the first time the Cup had been set on Belgian soil, and although it is a mouthful to say, the Stanley Cup, briefly, felt very much like a bruxelloix (someone from Brussels).

While the visit, which lasted until Wednesday, April 16, included visits to several historic spots around Brussels, a visit to the European Parliament was at the hub of the Cup's visit.

To get the flavour of this magnificent city, the Stanley Cup was driven around Brussels, the capital and largest city in Belgium. From Grand'Place, Brussels' historic square, the Stanley Cup was paraded to the Royal Palace and Hotel de Ville, soaking up the vibrancy of history and relevance that resonate within the city. While at Grand'Place, the Stanley Cup encountered a visiting couple from Quebec City. "Regardez! C'est la Coupe Stanley!" shouted the gentleman, incredulous at seeing the Stanley Cup in Belgium. He was truly awestruck, but even more so when he realized that Peter Stastny, his favourite Quebec Nordiques of all-time, was accompanying the historic Cup. "Mon Dieu! Incroyable!"

The Cup continues its sight seeing tour of Brussels with a stop at the spectacular Cinquantenaire Park. (Phil Pritchard/HHOF)
One curious stop made by the Stanley Cup was at the Manneken Pis, a historic statue of a young boy (ahem) urinating. "Look how small it is," said Phil Pritchard, the Keeper of the Cup. "I mean, the statue!" The 24-inch Manneken Pis was originally created in 1388, and legend states that it commemorates a 'wee' boy (if you'll pardon the expression) drowning the flames of a giant fire in the most natural manner possible. When the original statue was destroyed, it was replaced in 1619, and it is that masterpiece that is situated amongst a labyrinth of shops that surround the Grand'Place. Discussion turned to how long it would take the Manneken Pis to fill the bowl of the Cup, but no one really wanted to wait around for that.

Brussels is the headquarters of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), the organization created following the Second World War as a collective defence against attack from an external party. During the Stanley Cup's visit, employees and delegates saluted the Stanley Cup by wearing their NHL jerseys. It was a colourful and moving stop on the tour.

Brussels is considered the capital of the European Union, and that was the nature of the Stanley Cup's day on Tuesday, April 15. Organized in large part by Honoured Member Peter Stastny, head of the Slovak delegation, the Stanley Cup arrived at the Yehudi Menuhin Room in the European Parliament at 6:00pm. Twelve Members of the European Parliament, all of different nationalities and of varied political groups, spoke about hockey and its glorious history, many linking the growth of the game to political developments of the last century.

Canadian staff members of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) take a moment to pose with the Stanley Cup. (Phil Pritchard/HHOF)
Among those present as part of the presentation were former players Viacheslav Fetisov, now the Russian Minister of Sport, Jan Havel, a Czechoslovakian star in the 1960's, invited by delegations, Arturs Irbe from Latvia, Finland's Jyrki Lumme and, of course, Peter Stastny. Kimo Leinonen, project leader of the Finnish Ice Hockey Association, was there representing the IIHF.

Slava Fetisov commanded attention wherever he went. The legendary player, who starred for Russia before venturing to North America to play in the NHL, is revered far and wide as one of the greatest defencemen ever to play the game and is considered instrumental in breaking down the barriers that prohibited Soviet players from joining the NHL. A Hall of Fame member, Fetisov is now lending his knowledge as Russia's Minister of Sport.

Besides the Stanley Cup, Peter Stastny had arranged hockey exhibits to honour the IIHF's 100th anniversary. These displays included jerseys and other artifacts from many of the IIHF's 65 member countries. Fans swarmed the exhibits, especially the Stanley Cup, taking photos of the NHL's ultimate prize.

The Stanley Cup drops by the Atomium, a 102-metre, 50-year old monument and popular tourist attraction in Brussels, Belgium. (Phil Pritchard/HHOF)
Although it was the Cup's first visit to Belgium, hockey is certainly not new to the country. The IIHF has existed since 1908, but the first actual international hockey tournament took place in Antwerp, Belgium in 1920 as a 'demonstration' sport during the Summer Olympics. Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States all competed for a gold medal, which ultimately was collected by the Winnipeg Falcons, representing Canada.

While the Soviet Union prepared for the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, they held their training camp in the Belgian capital. To prepare themselves for the tournament, which was to be held in Lake Placid, New York, Soviet coaches had their team set all of their clocks and subsequent activities back by six hours so they would be fully acclimatized to the change once they arrived on North American soil. During an exhibition game between the Soviet National Team and the Belgian National Team, the Soviets, boasting a line-up that included Vladislav Tretiak in goal and skaters the stature of Fetisov, Valeri Kharlamov, Sergei Makarov and Aleksandr Maltsev, defeated the Belgians by a score of 40-1. Spectators had just one question: how did the Belgians get one?

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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