Stanley Cup Visits Bakersfield On Wednesday

By Andy Kehe
Californian staff columnist
The Bakersfield Californian

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Bobby Hull has had his day with it. So has Bobby Orr, Frank Mahavolich, Nikolai Khabibulin, Martin St. Louis, Martin Broduer, Steve Yzerman, Mike Madano and hundreds more NHL champions.

And now us. I knew we were good.

Maybe not for a whole day, but whatever time Bakersfield gets with Lord Stanley’s Cup today is to be savored. This, the displaying Wednesday night at Rabobank Arena of the oldest and most coveted of team championship trophies, is a rare if not once-in-a-lifetime treat, so don’t go slobbering mustard all over it.

But do go ahead and touch it, embrace it, even. It’s allowed. Run your fingers over the names of some of hockey’s greatest stars. This is one time that it’s OK to put your hands on something you don’t where it’s been. But know this: it’s been in the company of greatness for 112 years.

Just don’t lift it. That right is reserved for Stanley Cup champions.

Accompanied by Mike Bolt, one of three “keepers of the Cup” from the Hockey Hall of Fame, the 35-pound, 3-foot-high Stanley Cup is being brought to Bakersfield and 19 other ECHL cities on a 53-day tour to not only give fans a chance to see it in all its splendor up close and personal, but also to raise money for hurricane victims in the Gulf region. You can help by having your picture taken with the Cup for a donation, which will go to the relief effort. Similar events featuring the Stanley Cup has raised more than $4 million for charity the past three years.

The Stanley Cup is unique for two main reasons — each player, coach and principal front office staff from an NHL championship team gets to have his or her name etched onto a silver band that rings the Cup. And, since 1995, each of those folks have gotten to spend 24 hours with the Cup, to do with it pretty much as they please. Khabibulin had the Cup flown to Minsk, Belarus, for a first-ever visit to that former Soviet republic where he paraded it all over town, including through Gorky Park. Tampa Bay Lightning winger St. Louis took the Cup to South Burlington, Vt. and during his time there he invited folks to pose with him and the Cup as a fund raiser for a 1-year-old leukemia victim. Andre Roy of the Lightning put an engagement ring in the bowl of the Cup and proposed to his steady girl Karina as the two of them and the Cup were being flown via helicopter to his home in Saint-Jerome, Quebec.

Last summer, because there was no 2004-05 season, some of the greats from Stanley Cup championship teams prior to 1995 got their day with the Cup. The “Golden Jet” Bobby Hull took the Cup to his brother Dennis, a pretty decent Blackhawk, too, in his day, to show off at his cattle auction in Ontario. Before they knew it, somebody filled the Cup with grain and Phoenix, one of Dennis’ prized Herefords, was eating out of it.

Ailing Gus Bodnar, a centerman on 1944-45 Stanley Cup champion Maple Leafs, had his time with the Cup in his hospital room in Oshawa, Ontario, with family and friends. Six days later, he passed away “with a smile on his face,” said his sister in a letter to Bolt. (Dozens of stories about the Stanley Cup’s journeys can be found at www.HHOF.com).

It’s coming here from Atlanta, where it was on display Tuesday for a meeting between the NHL and sponsor Coca Cola. Sunday, it was in Long Beach for an Ice Dogs game. Thursday it’ll be back down in the Southland for a charity event hosted by the Mighty Ducks. Then it’s on to Vancouver and Victoria. There are civilized and not so civilized places on this earth the Stanley Cup hasn’t been too, but fewer than you might think. It’s logged more than 400,000 miles during the past five seasons and is in the air en route to one place or another for one event or another about 250 days a year.

In recent years that Cup has been on both Letterman and Leno. Photographed more times than Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan combined. It’s been to the Kremlin, an Aboriginal Metis settlement, to the top of 14,433-foot Mt. Elbert in Colorado. To Yankee Stadium. To Tampa General Hospital, where it was perched just a few feet away from a heart patient as she was being operated on.

I understand the Stanley Cup will get here somewhere around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and will go on display at 6 p.m. inside Rabobank, leaving 3 1/2 unspoken-for hours to do something with it. A plan to take it to Memorial Hospital and provide selected patients a little time with it had to be scrapped because, according to the Condors, the hospital didn’t have the staffing to assist with the Cup’s tour of the facility.

Yowza!

Now it looks like it’s just going to sit, un-ogled at before it goes on display at the arena. Tell you what, I think I can get off work just long enough to take it around, give it a taste of Kern and Kern a taste of it — just me and Bolt. Here’s my proposed itinerary:

* 2:30-3:30: Raft trip down the mighty Kern River.

* 3:30 to 4: On display at the Boys and Girls Club.

* 4 to 4:30: On the back of a Grimmway tractor harvesting carrots.

* 4:30 to 5: At Beach Park, barbecuing with my “Teal” Silver League hockey team.

* 5 to 5:30: At Dewar’s, patrons spooning out a George’s Special from its bowl.

* 5:30 to 5:45: My CEO’s desk (just in case Christmas bonus checks are making a comeback).

* 5:45 to 6: Pickup truck tour through streets of Bakersfield with Buck Owens and the Buckaroos.

A lot, I know. Nothing Lord Stanley’s Cup or its keeper can’t handle.