I like to think of myself as a well-rounded, but very casual sports fan. Basketball is number one, because we have the Utah Jazz and I love them. The NBA is constantly on TV at my house and I follow it pretty closely. Football and baseball are probably pretty even for second place and I usually know what's going on and who's doing well. Baseball has that great "new car smell" for about the first month of the season, but then the NBA playoffs start and I lose interest until sometime around July. I watch it casually until the postseason when things usually get exciting. After the World Series, I switch to football because it's entertaining.
There are teams that I root for in each sport, but none of them as much as I root for the Jazz. I love the Yankees, but get excited when Tampa Bay gives them and Boston a run for their money. It makes it more fun. In football I'm a 49ers fan, but other than that I just root against the Cowboys and the Giants.
Sometimes I'll pretend to care about college football, but I usually just end up rooting for whoever is behind in a close game. When that team takes the lead, I switch and root for the team I was just rooting against. Except, I always root against BYU and usually against USC. So, in other words, there's roughly two teams in each sport I'll root against just because.
Soccer is a sport that I've just learned to appreciate over the past few years, but even that's pretty low on the list. I love Real Salt Lake (even if I can't wear any RSL merch because I have tattoos and don't want to get lumped in to association with "those" RSL fans) and the games are incredibly fun, but I don't follow MLS, EPL or Champions League very closely.
Hockey though? Never was able to get into it. I picked a team and tried once, but lost interest after about 2 periods. Never bothered to learn the rules or anything else, so hockey is always just kind of there. I pay very little attention to it and each year it comes and goes with very little effect on my daily life.
Unlike the other professional sports, which make a new trophy each year so the teams can display them after they've won, the Cup is a one-of-a-kind thing. Each year, the team and everyone involved get their names engraved on one of the five rings at the base. Once there is no more room for names, the oldest ring is removed and placed in the hockey Hall of Fame, replaced with a new ring to make room for the names of the next champions.
Beyond that, the winning club keeps the Cup in their possession for roughly 100 days after the Finals are over. This gives enough time for it to be displayed in the victory parade and the various promotional stops that go along with winning a championship.
But there's one other thing that sets it apart from the other sports, and probably the most exciting part about it:
Each member of the winning team gets the Stanley Cup to himself for a full 24 hours. It's theirs to do whatever they want with and the stories that accompany that are some of the best around.
When the New Jersey Devils won in 2003, Martin Brodeur took the cup to a movie theater and ate popcorn out of it with his family.
In 1980, Clarke Gillies of the New York Islanders used it as a bowl for his dog's food.
The cup is professionally and meticulously cleaned after each player has their turn. It has to be.
Even before they let the players take the Cup for a day, it had its fair share of adventures with overzealous (and oftentimes a little inebriated) hockey players.
The 1906 Montreal Canadiens took the cup to have pictures taken with it and left it at a photographers studio. Weeks later, officials finally went back to the studio only to find that the photographers mother had placed it in the window and used it to plant geraniums.
Once, a drunken Ottowa player tried to drop-kick the cup over the Rideau Canal. It didn't make it and it was recovered sitting on the frozen water the next day.
After Detroit won the Cup in 1998, Kris Draper placed his newborn daughter in the bowl at the top. It made for an adorable picture until she defecated in it. Draper cleaned it out and drank champagne from it later that day.
The 1941 New York Rangers celebrated two things at once: their Stanley Cup victory and the fact that the mortgage of Madison Square Garden was finally paid off. They placed the paperwork in the cup and lit it on fire, only it set the Cup on fire as well. The team peed on it to put the fire out.
Last night, I caught the last period of the Kings-Devils game 6. I wanted the Kings to win, but only because the NBA Finals start tomorrow night and this is probably the only time I'll care about hockey until next year. I just really wanted to see the look on their faces when the finally got to hoist the Cup over their head. There's a real tradition to it that I like and admire. But again, that's the only time I'll care about hockey in 2012.
Well, there's a chance I'll care about it once more this year. The right wing for the L.A. Kings, Trevor Lewis, is from Salt Lake City. If he brings the Cup back here when he has it, and I'm off work that day, I'll join the two dozen other people that actually care about hockey in Utah in the Brighton High gymnasium for a few minutes to catch a glimpse.
The thing that made me start looking into all of this was Chris Jones, a writer for Esquire and ESPN the Magazine that I really like (and the guy sitting with the Cup in the picture towards the top of the post) convinced the NHL to let him have the Cup for a day to take it around his hometown of Port Hope, Canada about and hour east of Toronto. The one catch was that he couldn't tell anyone it was coming, he just had to show up places with it.
It's a great little story about how excited the people of the town got when they saw the Stanley Cup randomly show up and how much something like that means to them. Read it if you have a minute.
It's stories like that and all the rest of them that make the Stanley Cup the greatest prize in sports—even if I'll still never be able to watch an entire hockey game as long as I live.