“Keeper of the Cup” Philipp Pritchard spoke to Capitals fans before Friday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils about the history of the trophy, Stanley Cup traditions, and the Capitals players’ days with Lord Stanley’s Cup. During Pritchard’s 31 years as the trophy’s “bodyguard,” the Cup has been around the world, visiting the Arctic Circle (where it got a dog sled ride), the Arizona desert, and London (where it hopped a ride on a double-decker bus). It has also survived trips to the bottom of Mario Lemieux’s pool and being stolen twice.
At 125 years old, the Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy in sports and it is the only trophy with the champion players’ names engraved on it. There are two Stanley Cups — the original cup, which spent the summer traveling around the world with Capitals’ players, coaches, and staff, and a replica that is on permanent display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The first cup was awarded by Lord Preston Stanley in 1893, when the Montreal AAA won the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup.
Pritchard said the practice of the team photo around the Cup on the ice was started by Edmonton Oilers Captain Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky was also the first captain to pass the Cup to other members of the team for a skate around the ice.
The tradition of the Cup spending a day with each player began with the New Jersey Devils in 1995, which led to the Cup’s first trip to Europe a year later when Peter Forsberg took the Cup to Sweden.
Pritchard called the Capitals a “United Nations of hockey,” with players from seven countries. As a result, the Cup traveled to Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Russia, and the United States to spend times with Capitals players, coaches and staff. The team gets 100 days with the Cup, and each player and coach gets to spend a day with the trophy. The captain gets the Cup for two days, and the team decides which other staff members get a day with the Cup.
The first 24 hours after the Capitals clinched the Cup in Las Vegas last June were a whirlwind. Pritchard said that after an hour-and-a-half on the ice with family, friends, and the media, the Capitals’ players, coaches, and staff partied in the locker room before heading to the team hotel for another party with family and friends. After that, the players headed to the MGM Grand hotel to party at a Las Vegas nightclub into the early morning hours. After a quick return to the hotel to change and gather their bags, the team boarded the plane for a flight back to Washington, where the party started again with trips to Arlington and several stops in Georgetown.
A few days later, the Cup made its public debut during what Pritchard said was a “perfect parade” through the Nation’s Capital past monuments and thousands of cheering fans. Pritchard called it “probably one of the coolest moments in Washington sports history.”
There were a number of notable moments for the Cup this year.
The Cup made its first trip to Denmark, traveling to Copenhagen courtesy of Lars Eller, the first Dane to win the Cup.
— Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) August 11, 2018
The Capitals christened the Stanley Cup “cup stand” that included a cup stand on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and a cup stand in Sweden by Christian Djoos’ 7’1” friend (supported by 7 friends).
The summer ended with the Cup returning to Toronto for the players’ names to be engraved on the trophy. The Capitals are the first team on the newest band on the Cup, meaning their names will remain on the Cup for over 50 years before being put on permanent display at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
For more information on the Capitals Summer with the Stanley Cup, check out our Stanley Cup page in the top menu, or click here. Pritchard also kept a Cup Journal of the Cup’s summer with the Caps, which can be found here.