A couple days ago, my buddy Nate sent me the following PM on Teh LGC:
Subj: Want your picture taken with the Cup?
I’ve got an extra ticket if you want it. My dad & his girlfriend can’t make it.
I, being no fool, replied with:
Deal me in!
So this morning at 9 AM I met up with Nate and his wife Kathryn at the RBC Center for the “Season Ticket Holder’s Day With The Cup”. Now, I am not a season ticket holder (ah, Nortel, how I miss the $60K/year you paid me)–but I managed to get my mitts on a ticket, so I went.
The lines weren’t very long thanks to the “all-day” nature of the two-day event (yesterday and today)–and you could only go once during the two days. I’m in line with my digital camera, and Kyle Prairie (Canes ticket sales boss) comes over and says “You want me to take your picture for you AQ?” I said “Nah, I’m cool. Nate’s got it. Thanks though.”
It’s generally assumed that people south of, say, Chicago don’t understand hockey. That folks down in places like North Carolina can’t wrap their brains around the idea of hockey being like a religion.
Anyone who says that certainly doesn’t know me. To me, the RBC is holy ground and my being at a game is a religious experience akin to being on the sidelines at Valhalla. The warriors beat the snot out of each other all day, and when the battle is done they shake hands and go chill out until Gullinkambi crows and they go do it all over again. It’s my opportunity to spend quality time with my gods.
I had all these ideas in my head about what I’d do when I finally got to lay hands on the Cup. I’d cry, I’d drop over dead from the shock (which would probably make some Sabres fans happy), I’d shout praises to the gods, whatever. When I got up to the holy Cup and I came face to face with it–not the respectful 3 feet away that I’d stand every other time I saw it, but right there an inch away from my rosaceated well-scrubbed grill–all of those ideas vanished and were replaced by this feeling of awe.
I started running my fingers over the bowl and the upper part of the base, reading some of the team names on it–the old ones that came before us. The Montreal Wanderers, the Vancouver Millionaires, and the Ottawa Senators, the “Silver Sevens” who died during the Great Depression and were reborn sixty years later. All the old teams that played for the Cup before the NHL was even thought of and who were just a memory now, immortalized in solid silver.
At that moment, I understood how Mike Keenan felt in 1994 when he sat there all night letting the spirits of the Cup speak to him and tell their stories. If I’d stayed there much longer, I’d probably have done as he did and burst into tears. Nobody spoke–or if they did, I certainly didn’t hear them. It was very quiet in the East Priority Lounge, a almost reverential silence as I stood there for a few seconds that felt to me like forever and marveled at the Cup. I let my fingertips linger over the name Victoria Cougars, and then I looked up and quietly said “We really won this, didn’t we?” as Game 7 played on the jumbotron and every TV in the house.
Kathryn said “Yep, we sure did!”–and I did the only thing that I could think of doing:
And I whispered “thank you” to the spirits of the Cup.
(OK, now I’m crying.)