One of the really cool things about playing on a Stanley Cup Championship team is that each player gets to “keep” the Cup for 24 hours during the offseason.
Yes, that’s right. For one full day, each player can take the Stanley Cup anywhere he wants to, and do anything with it that he wants, within reason. If he wants to drink from it, eat from it or just display it in his living room for his friends and family, that’s just fine. If he wants to haul it to his favorite tavern and show it around to his drinking buddies, that’s OK, too.
Of course, the NHL does send a couple of security guys around with the trophy to make certain that it isn’t stolen or seriously damaged, but other than that, the players are free to use their imagination in regard to what to do with the hardware when it is their turn.
Last year, the NHL Championship was won by the Detroit Red Wings in a fierce battle over the Pittsburgh Penguins, so each Red Wings player was able to make plans to spend a little time with the trophy over the summer. Chris Chelios had it at his bar in Detroit, where it reportedly picked up a few new dings during a raucous celebration. Another player, Kris Draper, reportedly told folks that his infant daughter pooped in the Cup when he hosted the historic trophy for a day. And there were also reports that a group of the players who were partying with the Cup on a beach in Malibu left it behind, and it had to be retrieved later.
Some of the players took a more responsible approach to their stewardship of the Cup during the offseason. One of those was Brett Lebda, who decided to use the Cup to do some fundraising in support of the programs of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). He did this because his 23-year-old sister has suffered from the disease for a number of years, and he felt this would be for a worthwhile cause.
Accordingly, when it was his turn to host the Stanley Cup, the Buffalo Grove, Ill., native drove out to O’Hare Airport to meet the Cup and the security contingent and escort them back to the Glenview Ice Center in the Chicago suburb of Glenview, where the Cup was to be displayed under a tent outside the rink for all to see. Then, if you wanted to have your picture taken with Lebda and the Cup, you could make a small donation to JDRF and get in line with all the other fans who came out and work your way up to the front. When you got to the head of the line, you would be greeted by Lebda and you could then pose for your picture with him and the trophy.
In addition, Lebda would also sign a few autographs for you if you wanted. If you forgot to bring something from home, there was no worry because they brought some Red Wings publicity photos for him to sign, as well.
Lebda showed remarkable patience throughout the process because about 1,000 fans showed up for this opportunity, and Lebda was determined to meet and greet everyone. He had picked the Glenview Ice Center to hold this event at because that was where he first learned how to play hockey and he wanted to give the local kids an opportunity to see the Cup and understand what hard work at the rink can ultimately get for you if you want it badly enough, as he did.
Lebda told the Chicago Tribune that he enjoyed playing hockey since he was a little kid, but that he really became a big fan when his dad took him to Game 3 of the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the old Chicago Stadium. Although the Blackhawks lost that game, and ultimately the series, he said the action and excitement stuck with him and he knew that he really wanted to be a success at the game himself. Obviously, that is exactly what Lebda has become.
After his appearance with the Cup in Glenview, Lebda next took it to a private party that he was throwing for family and friends. He said that he had wanted to also somehow do something with it at the University of Notre Dame, where he played his collegiate hockey. However, there was only so much he could cram into one day, so he was not able to get down there for any appearances or celebrations with the Cup.
He did get to sleep with the Cup that night, though, and then he had to turn it back over to Chris Chelios the next day.