Staff writer Bryan Smith poses with Wirtz and the Chicago Blackhawks’ possibly germ-laden victory grail.
But Howie, the Cup handler, warned me not to hoist it.
SPORTS Two years ago for the magazine, I wrote a profile of Rocky Wirtz, the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks, so I was among the thousands, perhaps millions of fans who watched with rapture and jubilation as the team claimed its first NHL victory in 49 years. So what do you think I said when the team’s office called last week to see if I’d be interested, at Rocky’s invitation, in some one-on-one time with the great silver grail?
Aw hell yeah. A Facebook photo for the ages, I thought.
This past Friday was the day: I went to the Blackhawks’ downtown offices at 680 North Lakeshore Drive; the Stanley Cup had arrived that morning, and the staff would have a couple of hours to ooh and ahh before the Cup went to parts unknown with the players, who are each granted possession for a day to do with it what they wish.
There was little doubt that I was going to kiss it. That’s what you do when you’re lucky enough to get an audience with the Stanley Cup, right? And yet . . . when the moment came to pucker, I hesitated. I had heard stories: That several people who drank beer out of the Cup—courtesy of players who carted it along on a post-victory bar crawl—got sick. Hmm.
You’re not allowed to thrust it over your head, a la Jonathan Toews on the front page of the Chicago Tribune—there are strict hoisting rules when it comes to the Cup. I know this because one of those buzz-cut white-gloved security guys assigned to guard the trophy (a very nice gentleman named Howie) must have seen the glint in my eye as I approached. “Unless you own a team or are a player, you can’t lift it over your head,” he said. You can, however, touch it, love on it and, yes, kiss it.
The Cup rose polished and gleaming from a small table draped with a black-and-silver cloth festooned with NHL crests. Under the watchful eyes of Howie and the other white-gloved escort, I felt like Indiana Jones as I ventured a touch. Growing more bold, I draped my arm around it. And then, I did it. Gave it a peck. I couldn’t resist. I carried around a slightly metallic taste in my mouth for the rest of the day (which I tried to rinse out several times).
That afternoon—I’m not making this up—my throat began to feel sore. By nightfall, I was sniffling. A mild head cold had suddenly appeared.
I have since learned that the Cup is washed every day with soft detergent and taken apart and cleaned each year. I have also learned that thousands of people kiss the thing, presumably with no ill effects. Today, three days later, the sore throat is finally subsiding. Then I looked again at the pictures taken of me. And I realized: It was worth every sneeze.