By Mike Mastovich
For The Tribune-Democrat
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Lord Stanley’s Cup has been to the Czech Republic, Japan, Russia and the Bahamas.
The Stanley Cup even has been hauled up a 14,433-foot climb of Mount Elbert in Colorado.
The Cup visited the White House during the Bill Clinton and George Bush presidencies.
The trophy has been a late-night guest on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”
And it’s made four stops in Johnstown during the past four years.
That’s right. Four Cup visits since the summer of 2004.
The first time the Stanley Cup arrived at Cambria County War Memorial Arena on July 9, 2004, it was a novelty, an event that on short notice attracted nearly 2,000 hockey fans who stood in long lines for hours just to catch a glimpse of the Cup or have a photo taken alongside the 35-pound and nearly 3-foot-high silver trophy.
That year, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Final.
Tampa Bay assistant equipment manager Dana Heinze brought the Cup to Johnstown on his day with the prize.
Heinze, a former trainer with the ECHL’s Johnstown Chiefs, promised to display the Cup for Johnstown fans and, with the War Memorial and Chiefs’ assistance, the event took off as the Hockey Hall of Fame’s special handler donned his white gloves to position the Cup in the middle of the arena floor. Lines two- and three-people wide started near the turnstiles and stretched to the Zamboni entrance more than half an arena away. People stood for two or more hours.
Heinze is vying for another date with the Cup in his position as head equipment manager of the Penguins.
What seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime happening occurred again a little more than a year later. On Oct. 26, 2005, the Stanley Cup returned to Johnstown as part of a 20-city ECHL tour used to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
The reception was warm, but the hoopla of the previous summer was missing.
Johnstown native Chris Stewart struck Stanley Cup silver in his first NHL season as part of the Carolina Hurricanes’ training staff. The Canes overcame losses in games 5 and 6 to beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in the decisive seventh game to claim the Cup.
On his day with the Cup, Sept. 11, 2006, Stewart brought it back to the War Memorial. A solid crowd turned out that evening, though with the somber fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, the mind-set was different than the previous years.
Like Heinze, Stewart is part of the Penguins staff, as the team’s head athletic trainer.
Johnstown had its Stanley Cup four-peat on Oct. 18, 2007. To commemorate the opening night of the ECHL’s 20th anniversary season, the Chiefs and Wheeling Nailers played at the War Memorial.
As the only original member of the ECHL still playing in its original city, the Chiefs were honored to host the Cup.
The routine might not be as monumental as it once was in Johnstown, but no one would complain if the Pens win the Cup and one or both of Johnstown’s native sons brings home the hardware for a fifth straight year.