It’s been a busy summer of celebrations for the Washington Capitals, as each member of the organization has had, or will have their personal time with the Stanley Cup. So far this summer the Cup has traveled to Denmark, Sweden, Germany, the Czech Republic, made two trips to Russia, multiple jumps between the United States and Canada, with more to come. And Hockey Hall Of Fame employee Philip Pritchard has been along for the entire ride, for each stop, for each and every mile of the journey. Pritchard is the curator at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and (unofficial) escort of the Stanley Cup.
For 30 years now, Pritchard, known to most as the “Keeper of The Cup”, has chaperoned the Stanley Cup all around the world, from war zones to the bottom of Mario Lemieux’s pool. If there is one book that needs to be written, it’s a first-hand account of his job.
But first a little background from a NoVa Caps perspective. I’ve been tracking the Cup all summer long, since the final buzzer of Game 5 in Vegas back on June 7th. I set out with a goal to try to track all of the events for each and every day since the Cup was handed over from the Penguins to the Capitals. And as each day passed and my spreadsheet grew ever longer, I began to amass a great appreciation for Pritchard and his folks, and the work they do. Yes, I called it “work”, although I think many of you would love to do his “work” for a living.
As this summer progresses, I am more and more amazed at the endurance and dedication of Pritchard and his team.
— Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) June 8, 2018
As this summer unfolded I found myself doing more and more research on Pritchard and the “day with the Cup” tradition, in between the busy schedule of Cup event dates. Here is a little of what I’ve uncovered.
HOW IT STARTED FOR PRITCHARD
“I had to take it to a charity event just north of Toronto”, Pritchard told USA Today. “It was my first week on the job in 1988, we had a very small staff and it was a Friday night. And our boss asked if someone wanted to take it up to Newmarket, Ontario for a charity event. And no one really said anything, so I said, “Well, I’m the new guy. Sure, I’ll go.” So I put up my hand, and I guess, in a way, I’ve been putting up my hand ever since.”
— Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) July 8, 2018
At that time there was no precedent for players taking a turn keeping the Stanley Cup. Now the winner of the NHL championship keeps the Cup for much of the summer. The Cup then travels for nearly 300 days of the year. “If you ask my wife, I was in the wrong spot at the wrong time,” Pritchard told Mens Journal, adding that she would rather he didn’t have to traverse the world with the NHL’s grand prize.
In his 30-plus years of Cup travels, Pritchard said he sent a postcard to his wife everywhere he went. She’s kept each one, a total eclipsing 3,200 postcards stored somewhere in the Pritchard home reflecting the Keeper’s unique life
HOW IT WORKS
In a 2014 interview with Mental Floss, Pritchard shed some light on the actual processes involved with each and every summer tour. He was asked about a number of topics related to the Stanley Cup:
Players “Day with the Cup”
“When a team wins the Cup, they get 100 days with it—from when they win until their home opener, which is October sometime. During those 100 days, the players, the coach and staff, the owners, the scouts, they all get that opportunity with it. We work closely with the team and the NHL to set up a schedule that is basically done geographically around the world…Whoever wins this year, it will be a world tour. And someone is with it all the time.”
The 1995 New Jersey Devils officially started the tradition of one-day visits for players and important members of the organization, so Pritchard’s role evolved. While the winning team foots the travel bill each year, Pritchard shares the responsibility of organizing the schedule.
The actual engraving time frame:
“It takes about 10 days (for silversmith Louise St. Jacques to complete all of the engraving). What we do is, we try, when they go back to training camp, to get the Cup engraved so when it comes back into the town for their home opener celebration week, their names are on it. And that’s a special party itself, when they actually see their names on it for the first time.”
— Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) July 25, 2018
HANDLING THE CUP
Pritchard is famous for always wearing white, 100-percent-cotton gloves. He goes through a pair every one to two weeks, or roughly 30 to 40 a year.
Pritchard gives himself several extra hours at the airport to get the Cup through security, and he checks the unmarked black shipping case with red velvet interior as oversized luggage.
— Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) June 15, 2015
In an interview with the Washington Post, Pritchard suggests an everyday material: hotel shampoo. Oil collection can cause damage, particularly on the name engravings on the trophies, which are carved by hand.
Starting off the day by cleaning the #StanleyCup. @backstrom19 does a great job, but we suggest he sticks to playing hockey..leave the cleaning to us. @NHL @Capitals @HockeyHallFame pic.twitter.com/PJ3BR9tpT5
— Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) August 12, 2018
The Washington Capitals will bring the Stanley Cup to seven countries by the end of the summer, one shy of the record for the most countries it has visited in one offseason, Pritchard confirmed to The Washington Times. The 2004 Champion Tampa Bay Lightning visited eight countries with the Cup thanks to trips to unusual European destinations like Belarus and Ukraine. “They (Capitals) have a good United Nations of a team this year. They have guys from all over the place,” Pritchard said.
Going Down Under
If Australian rookie Nathan Walker brought the Cup to Australia, the Capitals would have tied the record with eight countries. However, Walker did not play enough in either the regular season or the Stanley Cup Final to meet the NHL’s internal regulations for who gets a personal day with the Cup, Walker’s agent told The Washington Times.
Its been a summer that was 44 years in the making, and it hasn’t disappointed one bit. It’s been a crazy ride, with still more to come. Please stay tuned.
By Jon Sorensen
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