Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 01
The Stanley Cup Journal

The Stanley Cup made a rare but memorable visit to Canada's northernmost communities.
Resting on the frozen tundra with the Arctic sunset as a backdrop, the Stanley Cup made a rare but memorable visit to Canada's northernmost communities.
(photo credit: John Thomas)
"Daddy, if you see Santa Claus, tell him I'm being a good boy, okay?"

So begged four-year old Quinn before his Daddy, Phil Pritchard from the Hockey Hall of Fame, embarked on a trip with the Stanley Cup to the Northwest Territories and into the Arctic Circle. Santa Claus manages to visit every city, town and village in the world all in one night. For Phil Pritchard, along with Marty Savoy and Jay Formentie of Hockey Canada, it took 15,000 kilometres and five days to cover nine different communities in Canada's far north.

The Stanley Cup has been witness to so many unique situations, from posing with Hollywood stars to being the trophy in street hockey contests. It has travelled around the world. In Canada alone, the Stanley Cup has visited Victoria, British Columbia in the west and Cape Spear, Newfoundland to the extreme east. The Cup has been prominent in Windsor, Ontario in the southernmost part of Canada, too. But parked on the frozen tundra with the Arctic sunset as a backdrop is not only a stunning visual, but a rare and momentous occasion for hockey's most cherished trophy.

The Stanley Cup has visited the far north just twice before. Four years ago, it was a special guest at a hockey tournament in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, the home of Nashville Predator Jordin Tootoo. And, after New Jersey's last two championships, the Cup also accompanied Scott Gomez of the Devils to Alaska. But the Stanley Cup had never previously spent any appreciable time in Nunavut, the newest and largest of Canada's territories created when the area was split from the Northwest Territories in 1999. While Hockey Canada makes an annual excursion into the north to operate hockey clinics, this year was the first time they had partnered with the RCMP and the Hockey Hall of Fame to bring the Stanley Cup to hockey fans in isolated northern communities. And although previous clinics have been very popular, the opportunity to see hockey's most prized trophy in person brought fans out in unusually large numbers.

Children welcome the Stanley Cup.
The visit was welcomed in the northern communities and elicited strong emotions from those, like these children, who were brimming with excitement and enthusiasm for both hockey and the Stanley Cup. (photo credit: Phil Pritchard)
"This may be one of the most meaningful trips the Stanley Cup has ever taken," stated Pritchard, the Vice President of Hockey Operations at the Hockey Hall of Fame. "Hockey is a unifying activity everywhere, but on this Northern Trip, it really hit home how meaningful the sport is. And because the Stanley Cup represents reaching the highest level of hockey excellence, it was amazing to watch the way people reacted to it!"

The Arctic Circle holds a special spot in hockey's Canadian history. The first recorded reference to hockey has recently been discovered in a letter penned by Sir John Franklin, a British explorer searching for the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Written in 1825, the entry stated, 'We endeavour to keep ourselves in good humour, health and spirits by an agreeable variety of useful occupation and amusement. Till the snow fell, the game of hockey played on the ice was the morning's sport.' Franklin sent the letter from Fort Franklin, a small community on the southern shore of Great Bear Lake. Twenty-two years later, Franklin and all the men of his expedition died, likely the casualties of lead poisoning from cans of tin brought on board their ships as provisions while exploring Canada's north.

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Zamboni at Taloyoak
In the Taloyoak Arena, a feast of caribou was prepared to celebrate the holiday. (photo credit: Phil Pritchard)
This sensational excursion began Thursday in Toronto. Pritchard drove from Toronto to Hamilton with the Stanley Cup, then flew west to Calgary where he met up with Marty and Jay from Hockey Canada. The entourage stopped in Edmonton on the way to Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories and home to 18,000. After unpacking the Stanley Cup's case from the plane, Phil wheeled it into the Yellowknife Community Arena where he was greeted by a huge cheer. While the boys from Hockey Canada held special instructional clinics for the young players, every team registered in Yellowknife Minor Hockey had its picture taken with the Stanley Cup. That afternoon, the Stanley Cup visited a number of local schools, too. The boys then visited the Yellowknife Correctional Centre, where the lure of seeing the Stanley Cup put the hundred or so youths bettering their lives on their best behaviour during the weeks leading up to the visit.

From there, the boys with the Cup flew 684 kilometres north to Norman Wells, a community with a population of 800 situated on the bank of the MacKenzie River. Norman Wells is the transportation centre of that area, acting as a hub for regional flights into neighbouring communities. From Norman Wells, the Stanley Cup was taken to Inuvik, the Land of the Midnight Sun. Located on the edge of the Arctic Circle, Inuvik rests in a unique position between vast tracts of forest and treeless tundra.

The Stanley Cup travels by dogsled.
The Stanley Cup has been a passenger on planes, trains, automobiles and virtually every other conceivable method of transportation, and can now add dogsled to the list.
(photo credit: Marty Savoy/Hockey Canada)
From Inuvik, the Cup jumped back from Norman Wells to Yellowknife and on to Hay River, a community of 3,600 at the mouth of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. Hay River is the home of NHL veteran Geoff Sanderson, who recently joined the Vancouver Canucks. The Hay River hockey program, which boasts Sanderson as an alumnus, lined up by team and every one of the 140 children registered had his or her picture taken with the Stanley Cup while Marty and Jay taught developing players a new arsenal of skills. After the last photograph was taken, the Cup was packed in its custom-built case and taken to selected schools in the district. That evening, a sumptuous banquet was held at the community centre, with the Stanley Cup sitting proudly at the front of the hall.

After stopping at Hay River, the three accompanying the Stanley Cup were off to Cambridge Bay by way of Yellowknife. Cambridge Bay, also known as Ikaluktutiak, is a hamlet of 1,200 citizens on the southern coast of Victoria Island. The trophy was greeted by RCMP officers dressed in full ceremonial uniform. Then it was on to Taloyoak, a community formerly known as Spence Bay that sits 460 kilometres east of Ikaluktutiak. While waiting their turn to get a picture taken with the Stanley Cup, local hockey fans told Phil about the abundant trout and whitefish caught locally. But the excitement was reserved for one reason. As one young boy told Phil, "I'm so happy to see the Stanley Cup, I think I'm going to die!"

The Stanley Cup nestled amidst a school full of hockey fans.
If you look hard, you'll discover the Stanley Cup and its keeper, Phil Pritchard, nestled in the middle of a school full of hockey fans. (photo credit: Marty Savoy/Hockey Canada)
The enthusiasm for the Stanley Cup never waned. The Stanley Cup ventured to Iqaluit after its visit to Taloyoak. Like so many communities in the Arctic, Iqaluit also has ties to the Northwest Passage. Formerly named Frobisher Bay, Iqaluit was originally named for Martin Frobisher, who, in 1576, became the first explorer to attempt to find a passage from Europe to the Far East. Frobisher sailed into the bay adjacent to the community in his search for the passage that would facilitate a trade route between England and China. In 1987, Frobisher Bay was renamed Iqaluit, and the town of 5,000 on the southwestern coast of Baffin Island was chosen to be the capital of the newly-created territory of Nunavut in 1995, although Nunavut didn't officially become a territory until 1999.

On Sunday, most of Iqaluit stood in line for five hours at the Arctic Winter Games Arena to get a picture taken with the Stanley Cup. From Iqaluit, the Stanley Cup moved four hundred kilometers southwest to Cape Dorset, a community of 1,100 residents on the Foxe Channel. Phil laughed quietly every time a reference was made to the Foxe Channel, thinking about sitting with his kids back home in Toronto, watching the Simpsons on an entirely different Fox channel. This area on Baffin Island also has a history tied to the Northwest Passage. In 1631, British explorer Luke Foxe was attempting to navigate his way through the ice and islands between the Atlantic and the Pacific, sponsored by Edward Sackville, the Earl of Dorset. Although Captain Foxe was unsuccessful, he happened upon an island with a sizeable mountain he named Cape Dorset in honour of his benefactor. A snowmobile sporting a set of caribou antlers tied to the hood was parked in front of Cape Dorset's arena, and Pritchard couldn't resist the chance to get a photograph of the Stanley Cup placed on the snowmobile.

Hockey fans from all across the vast North came to see the Stanley Cup.
Hockey fans from all across the vast North came to see the Stanley Cup.
(photo credit: Marty Savoy/Hockey Canada)
The Stanley Cup left Cape Dorset and was destined for Pangnirtung, stopping in Iqaluit on the way. But Pangnirtung, meaning 'the place of the bull caribou,' was inaccessible as weather wouldn't allow the small plane to land, so the pilot continued flying another 225 kilometres to Qikiqtarjuaq, formerly known as Broughton Island and home to slightly more than 500 residents. Known locally as the 'Big Island,' Qikiqtarjuag is located off the east coast of Baffin Island. The area was settled in 1956 in order to build the DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line. When scientists realized how vulnerable Canada was to an air attack, a chain of sixty-three radar and communications stations was built starting in Alaska to the west and stretching 3,000 miles to Baffin Island in the east. The community sprang up to create a local DEW Line, and a Hudson's Bay store was opened in 1960 to supply necessities to the area. Locals were amazed to see the Stanley Cup; Pritchard was told that the area was a prime area to see polar bears and seals.

The party left Qikiqtarjuag and skipped to Iqaluit once again. John Thomas, the president of Hockey Iqaluit, regarded the trip as unforgettable. "Most probably don't realize how big a role hockey plays in northern communities. The biggest impact for many Inuit would have been to actually see and touch the Cup, bringing the reality of the Cup and what it means to them really hit home. Bringing the Cup into such small Arctic communities was actually an emotional experience for most people as they could hardly believe it was actually there in their hometown. I heard many stories of people crying and in total disbelief of the whole experience."

Marty and Jay from Hockey Canada then stepped into a plane for Yellowknife and would land, later that day, back in Calgary. Phil Pritchard, meantime, packed the Stanley Cup and flew to Ottawa. From Ottawa, another plane took the Cup and its keeper to Hamilton. Then, Phil drove to Yonge and Front in downtown Toronto - the Hockey Hall of Fame -- the permanent home of the Stanley Cup. When Phil Pritchard walked back through the doorway of his home after traversing much of Canada's Arctic in a whirlwind five days, he was greeted, nearly deliriously, by his three children. Then, Phil's four-year old son Quinn looked pensive. "Did you meet Santa Claus when you were at the North Pole, Daddy?" Phil stopped for a moment, then broke into a grin. "Y'know what Quinner, I did! Santa Claus came by to see the Stanley Cup!" Quinn let out a whoop and took off down the hallway, chanting "My Dad knows Santa Claus; my Dad knows Santa Claus!"

To the residents of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories who got the opportunity to see the Stanley Cup in person, it was an experience to last a lifetime. For Phil Pritchard and the boys from Hockey Canada, the image of hockey's greatest prize against a backdrop of frozen tundra is etched indelibly in their minds. For little Quinn Pritchard, he's just happy to know Santa Claus loves the Stanley Cup like everybody else!

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

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