I am not an NHL player.
There. That should be known before continuing to read. I did not pull off the bone-crunching, mind-scrambling playoff run the Bruins or any other team for that matter tried to do this year. I did not bleed on the ice or leave the ice rink with bruises from blocking a 105-mph shot from Zdeno Chara. I was not bombarded with thousands of questions on why I didn't perform as well as the media thought I should have and still maintain the mental capacity to travel away from family and friends in a grueling couple months of insanity and brutality.
I am not one of them.
So if I didn't go through the process and didn't achieve anything; if I didn't plan, lead or execute or live the life that a Stanley Cup champion has had to battle through the past couple of months, why should I now be able to reap the benefits? What makes me so special that I get to do what hundreds of professional hockey players never will do in their lives?
Why do I get to touch the Stanley Cup?
These have been my thoughts my whole life growing up as a hockey fan. I always saw fans who kissed and embraced the Cup and could never understand why they did it. They did not physically play any shift of any game.
That being said, I'm not being a Debby Downer here. I understand like any other Boston sports spectator that winning is the ultimate goal and it's fantastic for the city when it happens. I'm not saying to not celebrate or be happy, I'm just saying when it comes down to it, relish in the championship, but leave the coveted Cup to the players.
I told myself when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup that it was awesome for the team, administration and everyone involved in that organization. They deserved to hoist the Cup and take in every bit of the atmosphere that comes with it. But it took them 39 years. Great Bruins like Cam Neely never got the opportunity to raise the Cup with Boston despite being one of the best forwards in the league during his prime. Ray Bourque had to move to Colorado and play with the Avalanche before he had his turn. And the list goes on outside the confines of Boston.
And yet, hundreds and thousands of people have had the opportunity to touch, kiss and do God-knows-what-else to it. It didn't seem right to me to have my hands on the Cup that had evaded the grasp of hockey all-stars and legends.
That was until I saw it in person.
10 minutes before the premiere of the Bruins Championship DVD, the Cup was brought out for everyone to see. It shined in the light, and each name that adorned it reflected the light in a different direction. It was then that I took a second to realize how many hands and tears and kisses actually fell on the cup. While the thought would quickly incapacitate your typical germophobe, the history of it all makes it so intriguing and alluring.
After the premiere ended, the staff told everyone in the theatre that they could have their picture with it. And, like one would expect, the kissing, touching, bunny ears, rock concert gestures all found their place with the Cup. I stood there and shook my head and wondered if I was the only person out there who thought the way I did.
Nonetheless I found a place in line and told myself a picture with the Stanley Cup would be plenty. The line grew thinner and thinner as fans departed after their moment of glory. It finally got to be my turn and I stood right next to it, not daring to touch it, but tempted to for the first time in my life. I didn't have much time with it, but I took a quick scan of as many names as I could. And in that moment, I looked to the camera, and it was as if the cameraman had read my mind.
"Put your arm around it," he said.
I brought myself back into lucidity and said that I had not done anything to deserve touching it, but was quickly scoffed at and told, "And you will probably never have that opportunity to win it on the ice."
And that's when it hit me. I reached over, leaned into it and touched my hand to the front of the cup as he snapped the photo.
As I left the scene, I smiled to myself and realized how absurd I was thinking, yes, that trophy is for the players, there is no doubt about that. And while I still think fans who cry over it as if they had any part in the grueling playoffs are crazy, I can empathize with those others who simply look at the Cup and see the hard work and history that has come with the giant silver trophy.
For that moment in time, whether you kiss it, touch it or even embrace it, you are fusing yourself to a piece of history. For that brief second it takes to snap a photograph, history becomes the present and you have joined yourself to become part of that long history.
So while the actual Cup isn't the byproduct of anything any fan has done during the season, being able to celebrate while reaching out and literally joining yourself with the past is something that any sports fan would be crazy to pass up.