Hoist it, drink from it, light it on fire…

June 14, 2012

Another season of NHL hockey is in the books and a big congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings on their first ever Stanley Cup victory. Of course, if you watch ESPN exclusively for all your sports information then you likely have no idea what the sports league known as the NHL is or that a group of people who play for a team in said sports league just won a championship. But that is not the point of this post so I will refocus.

Each summer every player from the championship team gets their day with the Stanley Cup. It’s one of the greatest sports traditions around. I started thinking about the craziest, most disgusting, and most disturbing things that poor trophy has been subjected to. These days the Cup doesn’t travel without a chaperone.  The NHL hired handlers to babysit the trophy. Needless to say the best stories are the ones before the handlers came along but there are still some good ones from more recent times. This is what I found.

  • In 2008 Kris Draper put his newborn daughter in the Cup on his day to celebrate. Apparently it either scared her or made her feel really relaxed because, as Draper explained, “she pooped in the Cup. I still drank out of it that night, so no worries”. Typical Red Wing.
  • In 1987 Mark Messier celebrated with the Cup at a classy establishment in Edmonton called the Forum Inn (ahem…strip club) and it made it’s way onstage. More details are difficult to find but I’m sure our imaginations can run with that. The following year he reportedly dented it and brought it to a local automotive repair shop to get it fixed. Wonder what a tune up on the holiest of holy grails costs.

  • Most people know the story of the 1905 Ottawa Silver Seven. After a night of pounding beers out of the Cup, which at that time was literally just a cup, they decided to see if they could kick it across the Rideau Canal. Clearly NFL punters they were not because they didn’t come close to clearing the canal and it skidded across the ice. Thankfully they were in Canada and the canal was frozen.
  • In 1924 the Montreal Canadiens were heading to a victory party when the car got a flat tire. They set the Cup on the side of the road while they took care of the car. After repairs were complete they took off for the party. When they arrived the realization sunk in that something was missing. They had left the guest of honor on the side of the road. Oops. Amazingly…it was still there when they went to retrieve it. Certainly a different time. That thing wouldn’t last 30 seconds in the alley behind my place. Wonder what a steel recycling place would give you for it…
  • The 1940 New York Rangers accidentally lit the trophy on fire…somehow. They did manage to put it out though the same way any other group of intoxicated men would…by urinating on it.
  • Eddie Olczyk took the Cup to the Kentucky Derby in 1994 where he reportedly let the winner, Go for Gin eat out of it. Olczyk denies the rumor. Even still, the following year the NHL hired handlers to accompany the trophy.
  • Mark Recchi took it on the town with him on his day in celebration in 2006. Then went home and curled up in bed…with the Cup. It kinda makes you wonder how far the handler is allowed to be from it and if Recchi had a king bed.
  • Steve Yzerman showered with it in 2002. I don’t even know what else to say about that.
  • Colorado defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre had his child baptized in the Cup. Hopefully God’s a hockey fan.
  • The Cup is definitely no better a swimmer than I am. It’s been in both Mario Lemiuex and Patrick Roy’s pools…both times sinking to the bottom and having to be rescued.

Now…after reading these humorous and sometimes rather gross stories…how many of you are thinking about that time you kissed the Cup?

Yeah…me too.

Dude, Wash Your Shirt

January 13, 2012

I’ve never been an overly superstitious person. I have been known to knock on wood from time to time, particularly when I tell people I’ve never been in a car accident. Ironically I just knocked on my desk after I typed that. Nevertheless…not all that superstitious. Besides the knocking on wood thing.

Athletes as a general rule, however, have a multitude of superstitions. They range from broad understandings like playoff beards, avoiding the word “shutout” when you’re goalie is blanking the opposing team, and not saying the words “no-hitter” when a pitcher has one going to more specific ones particular to each player. (Incidentally in college I came home to my roommate holding onto a no-hitter into the 7th inning of his MLB ’99 PlayStation 2 season and congratulated him on the no-hitter he had going. To this day he still blames me for the single he gave up in the 8th.)

Here are some of the oddest superstitions I found from some of our favorite hockey players.

Wayne Gretzky – He would never get a haircut while on the road. Apparently he got his sweet flow trimmed away from home then lost badly. Never again.

Brendan Shanahan – Listened to Madonna on all game days. I would guess that he was merely faking a “superstition” so he didn’t have to explain why he knew all the lyrics to the Like a Prayer album.

Ray Borque – Had to change his gear between every period. Not such a bad thing. But he also would re lace his skates and toss the old laces. Seems like a waste. But his name is on the Cup so what do I know?

Daniel Briere – Always has three sticks taped and ready to go. When he has a good game he rewards the stick by giving it a rest and using another one next game.

Joe Nieuwendyk – He sprinkled baby powder on the blade of his stick because he believed it had magical powers. Too much Dungeons and Dragons for you, Joe.

Sidney Crosby – Will not call his mom on game days. Apparently when he does he gets injured. There are a thousand jokes swirling around in my head right now…but I’m not going to kick a guy while he’s down. Even Sid.

Glen Hall and Darren Pang – Threw up before every game. Every. Single. Game. Pang claimed it made him more agile. Hall just had irritable bowel syndrome. (I totally made that last line up.)

Ed Belfour – Never let anyone touch his equipment. He actually would threaten people if they got too close.

Jocelyn Thibault – Poured water over his head exactly six and a half minutes before every game.

Patrick Roy – He used to talk to his goal posts. I’m not sure if that makes him superstitious or schizophrenic.

Pelle Lindbergh – It comes as no shock to any of us that this list would be heavily populated by goalies. Pelle wore the same shirt under his gear. He never washed it…and would sew it when it ripped. Crazy Swedes.

Obviously there are a ton more…but those were some of my favorites. Enjoy your weekends and, if at all possible, stay away from goalies today. Far away.

Johnny’s IceHouse: The Future of Blogging

July 20, 2011

Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement. And by that I mean a huge overstatement. But I’m excited to get the ball rolling on a blog dedicated to all things Johnny’s. It’s funny…as I was deciding on a headline I was reminded of a cover of The Hockey News many years ago that had a big picture of Jeremy Roenick on it with him in some sort of “rock star” pose. He had written an article entitled “Why Hockey Rules. Don’t Get It? Get Real!” Quite possibly the worst title for an article I have ever seen. And, ironically, the article about why hockey is awesome was in a magazine that only big time hockey fans rabid enough to subscribe to it would be reading anyway. We all love you, JR…but Woodward or Bernstein you are not.

So anyway…on to the topic at hand. The spring/summer season of Johnny’s Adult League (JAL) is rolling along here. 100 teams this season. Unbelievable. It just goes to show that Chicago is truly a hockey town. And, quite honestly, it always has been. Even back when the Blackhawks were a minor blurb in the back of the sports section and you could hear crickets chirping at the United Center the core group of fans and players were always around Johnny’s. It’s great to see the sport expanding to a broader audience.

I know a lot of hard core hockey fans. I’ve heard grumblings the past few years about people being fair weather fans; “new fans” as some have called them. And, perhaps, I’ve even joked about them as well. I mean…it’s hard not to crack a joke at the guy sitting ten rows from the ice and screaming, “Backcheck” while the Hawks have possession of the puck in the offensive zone. But truth be told I love the enthusiasm (aside from the “backcheck” guy). It’s always great to see passion for a team, whether it’s new or old. I remember those lonely nights at the UC. It’s certainly a lot more fun now.

You can see it around Johnny’s as well. We have adults wanting to learn the game and getting involved with our classes. Others just hang in the bar with a beer and watch the action on the ice. It’s very cool to see so much excitement for the great sport of hockey, from the people who have been in skates since they were two years old to the people who just Googled backcheck after reading the last paragraph.

So hopefully we can get some insightful blogs up here about Johnny’s and hockey in general that will be informative, entertaining, and enjoyable to read. And if not…well…maybe I can get JR to write some articles for us.