by Andrew Cutler
Rapid City Journal
for Original Story
The Cup will be on display tonight during the Central Hockey League All-Star Game Banquet at 6 p.m. at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center and in the main concourse of the Ice Arena during the All-Star Game on Wednesday. Fans will be able to have their picture taken with the Cup.
Phil Pritchard is recognized all over North America, but not for anything he has done; it’s usually for his companion.
When Pritchard travels away from his Toronto-area home, the most-recognizable trophy in sports – the Stanley Cup -- usually accompanies him.
Pritchard will be in Rapid City with the Cup, beginning today, as part of the festivities for the Central Hockey League All-Star Game on Wednesday.
“Part of the thing with the Stanley Cup is obviously it’s kind of idolized and worshipped by anyone who puts on skates and plays hockey,” he said. “So every January, we work with all of the minor professional leagues and try to get to all of the all-star games.”
Pritchard, the Hockey Hall of Fame’s vice president and curator, is one of four staff members who travel with the Stanley Cup for official functions and when it arrives at the hometowns of the players, coaches and officials of the team that wins the trophy.
“If it could talk, it could be a best-seller probably,” Pritchard said.
The Cup already has racked up plenty of miles this new year.
Since Jan. 1, the trophy has been in Pittsburgh for the Winter Classic, Buffalo for the World Junior Tournament, Toledo, Ohio, with an East Coast Hockey League team, along with appearances in Anaheim, Calif., and the Pocono Mountains, in northeastern Pennsylvania.
But one place the Stanley Cup never been is Rapid City, Pritchard said.
“I think we are going to Mount Rushmore, and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time. I searched back a couple of months ago and I think it’s the first time it’s been out to (South Dakota),” he said. “I can’t think of another team that has been out there that has had it out there. We might have driven through from one place to another, but certainly for Rapid City it’s the first time.”
The Cup will be on display tonight during the CHL’s All-Star Game banquet and during Wednesday’s all-star game. The Cup will be in the main concourse where fans can have their picture taken with the 117-year-old trophy.
“The Central Hockey League has a very good relationship with the Hockey Hall of Fame and I’ve had Phil at a couple of events when I was in Louisiana,” Rush general manager Tim Hill said. “Usually if you give them enough notice … it wasn’t hard to get it here at all.”
The Cup is on the road about 300 days of the year, and Pritchard has been traveling with the Cup since 1988. Last year, Pritchard was on the road with the Cup 173 days.
“I love what I do,” Pritchard said. “I think everybody that enjoys getting up in the morning and going to their job, they certainly love what they do, and I fall right in there with them.”
That doesn’t mean traveling with the 117-year old Cup is always easy. Pritchard said changes since Sept. 11, 2001, have meant the 36-inch tall, 35-pound Stanley Cup has had to give up its seat on the plane for a custom case and a spot with the rest of the oversized luggage.
“No longer do we bring it on the flight; we work closely with the airlines and customs to make sure it gets on the flight and everything,” Pritchard said. “They walk it on the flight and let us know it’s on and everything before we get on the plane. It’s changed the way we travel with it, but it’s still very secure and safe to get to the next destination for the fans and the players. We always keep our fingers crossed.”
While in public, the Cup’s keepers wear white gloves to handle the Cup, like a museum official handling an artifact. In private, however, gloves aren't necessary, Pritchard said.
The trophy returns to the hotel each night with the handler, where it gets cleaned with soft detergent, warm water and a cloth to get fingerprints off and prepare it for the next day.
“If we are in a hotel and it has a shower, then the trophy gets a shower,” Pritchard said. “If we are out on the road after a team has won it and the guy lives on a farm somewhere, well then we use a hose. We’ll use whatever we have handy.”