Yellowknife Inn

NNSL photo/graphic


 Front Page
 News Desk
 News Briefs
 News Summaries
 Business Pages
 Arctic arts
 Readers comment
 Find a job
 Market reports
 Handy Links
 Best of Bush
 Visitors guides
 Feature Issues
 Today's weather
 Leave a message



. NNSL Logo
Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Keepers of the cup

Andrew Livingstone
Northern News Services
Published Friday, April 23, 2010

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Mike Bolt said it best - if you can't win the Stanley Cup, you might as well look after it.

NNSL photo/graphic

Phil Pritchard, left, and Mike Bolt, are keepers of what is perhaps the hardest trophy in the world to win - the Stanley Cup. Pritchard, who is vice-president and curator at the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Bolt have criss-crossed the world more times than they can remember during their combined 33 years escorting the iconic piece of sports hardware. - Andrew Livingstone/NNSL photo

For the last 11 years, Bolt has been one of the lucky people who have the honour of being the keepers of Lord Stanley's cup. He gets to travel all over the world to celebrate with players and coaches who are fortunate enough to win the coveted trophy.

Bolt, who began working at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 1995, was asked by vice-president and head "Keeper of the Cup" Phil Pritchard if he wanted the job.

"I said I was interested," Bolt said, adding he didn't really clue into how his life had just changed. "About an hour later I said 'holy crap, they just handed me the Stanley Cup.' I got excited and called my parents and said I got the greatest job in the world handed to me and I still feel that way, even 11 years later."

Since then he has been to dozens of countries and every state and province in North America except Nunavut. Bolt said the 250 days a year he spends with the cup, which, over 11 years, totals more than 2,220 days, can be tiring but the job itself never gets old.

"I never get sick of looking at the cup. I never get sick of seeing the fans. I never get sick of seeing the joy and smiles it brings to the great fans of hockey," he said Sunday, while keeping an eye on the cup at Yellowknife's Scotiabank branch.

"This is a celebrity that doesn't sign autographs, it doesn't shake hands and it can't talk to you, but it sure stands solid for every single picture, and it never changes its appearance."

Pritchard, who was on the tour with the cup last weekend, said his first trip with the cup back in 1988 to Newmarket, Ont., was surreal - and that feeling has never stopped.

"For everybody growing up who puts on skates, you want to win the cup and hoist it over your head," he said.

For 22 years, Pritchard, with the uniform-required white gloves and wearing his Hall of Fame blazer, has carried the cup onto the ice to be presented to the winning team. He said it's an amazing experience to be a part of the ceremony every year, but the first thing on his mind is getting to centre ice without tripping.

"The biggest thing is when you first walk out onto that red carpet - if you're going to become a YouTube feature with all those TV wires all over the place," he said. "Once you're out to centre and watching the celebration and you're playing some part in that, it's pretty neat."

Both Pritchard and Bolt could talk your ear off about the experiences they've had with what Bolt calls "the international celebrity."

Since 1995 each member of a winning team gets to have the cup to himself for a day. Bolt's first player in his inaugural 100-day trip with the 2000 winners, the New Jersey Devils, was Randy McKay.

"He had a big party for all the guys that built his house. He had it built during the playoffs that year. The guys were telling me that they'd check how the series was going and they'd say 'Oh, New Jersey's down. C'mon boys, let's get it going. He could be home in three days.'"

Pritchard said bringing the cup to homes of guys who won the cup in the 1930s and '40s was a really special moment.

"It was a chance to celebrate with their families," he said. "We saw a lifelong dream of a guy fulfilled 40 years ago and you're finishing the loop by bringing them the cup. It took a lot of 411 and a lot of Yellow Pages and we found them. When we first phoned them, they didn't understand why. By the time their day was done, it was all worth it. It was their cycle that was fulfilled."

Pritchard said he couldn't be happier with his job.

"To hang out with the winners every summer and coming to these corporate events and travel around the world promoting the game, it's pretty special," he said.

"I guess when you wake up every day and you're happy going to work, it's a good thing."

We welcome your opinions on this story. Click to e-mail a letter to the editor.