TAMPA — There’s not much free time when you travel with the Stanley Cup.
For the first time since 2019, the NHL’s championship trophy is on the move, visiting hometowns of players, coaches and scouts from the 2020-21 Lightning squad. In addition, Tampa Bay is including former coaches and players from the ‘19-’20 Cup team who didn’t their day with the Cup last summer on this year’s tour.
The Cup has more than 60 events planned, across six countries, 12 states and seven provinces. So far, it’s made for a special summer for Phil Pritchard, one of the Cup’s keepers.
“Every guy we’ve done has wanted to do something with the community,” Pritchard said. “And I think that’s always important, and that’s why the Stanley Cup celebration tour is so amazing, because of the power it has with the community. It’s pretty special.”
Since completing a trip to New York, the Cup has visited recently departed center Tyler Johnson, head coach Jon Cooper, former assistant Todd Richards, defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Luke Schenn (who left via free agency), center Brayden Point and former defenseman Braydon Coburn.
Pritchard said one of the most memorable moments was when Cooper and Johnson took the Cup to Wayne Gretzky’s hockey camp in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in late July.
Some of the children at the camp did not expect the two to walk in with the trophy, Pritchard said. Cooper and Johnson also posed for photos, creating a “pretty special” experience for the campers, in Pritchard’s words.
Another memorable moment came when McDonagh took the Cup for a flight from Minnesota to Wisconsin in late July and participated in a (second) boat parade with his family on Balsam Lake in Wisconsin.
When McDonagh took the Cup to a private party at Shamrocks Irish Nook in St. Paul, Minn., a group of Irish bagpipers ushered him into the restaurant.
“It was pretty neat for Mr. Hockey,” Pritchard said, nodding to McDonagh’s honorary title after he was named Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey in 2007. “It was pretty unique.”
Pritchard said he’s seen the Cup at bagpipe-related events before, but not in a private event setting like McDonagh’s.
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The party did stop there, as McDonagh was surprised later by longtime friends and current teammates Pat Maroon and Zach Bogosian.
“It’s cool when the teammates, they go beyond the teammates in the dressing room,” Pritchard said, “and they actually become friends, too, it’s pretty special for the guys, I think.”
The Cup is currently in Quebec, where it will visit at least 10 people, including general manager Julien BrieBois. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is expected to have his days with the Cup at the end of August.
The Cup is typically engraved before the start of the next season, but the timetable was pushed back this summer so the Lightning can maximize their time with the Cup during the shortened offseason. It is scheduled to be engraved in Montreal at some point after the Oct. 12 home opener.
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