National Hockey League players taking custody of the Stanley Cup for one day after their team wins the title is one of the quaintest and coolest traditions in professional sports.
That makes the Cup the most traveled of all trophies, but it broke new ground when Anchorage’s Scott Gomez brought the most identifiable of all team championship symbols to Alaska.
The NHL rookie of the year earned the right to transport the trophy north because he was a member of the 1999-2000 champion New Jersey Devils. For a state and community far removed from the mainstream of big-time professional sports, Gomez provided a big-time moment by accompanying the Stanley Cup to Alaska and showing it off for hours in downtown Anchorage in July 2000.
The Cup generated about as much excitement as a single inanimate object could, just by being its historic, glittering self.
Gomez shared his good fortune with his hometown by bringing the Cup to various night-life establishments and toasting it at a party, but more dramatically displaying the Cup for all comers on the Delaney Park Strip. From 1- 7 p.m., the Stanley Cup was on view for anyone who wanted to see it up close, pose for pictures with it or even let their babies sit on top of it.
Hockey fans and the merely curious formed a snaking line at the park strip; an estimated 8,000 people visited the 331/2- pound trophy during its six hours in the sunshine. The Cup glowed and left Alaska with a long-remembered glow.
It was as if some famous celebrity previously viewed only on television descended on Anchorage. That’s what it was like the day the Stanley Cup came to town.
– Lew Freedman