The most traveled trophy in sports then remained grounded until it boarded Air Canada flight 171 here on Monday night – by far the longest stretch it has traveled without a road trip. in the 32 years that Phil Pritchard has served as Cup keeper.
Pritchard quietly entered the NHL bubble with four pieces of valuable cargo: the Stanley Cup; the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the playoff MVP; the Prince of Wales Trophy, awarded to Eastern Conference champions; and the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, awarded to Western Conference champions.
Each will be featured on the ice at Rogers Place over the coming weeks.
Pritchard arrived at the Delta Hotel as the opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals was played between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders. It was a night’s rest for the Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights – the only other teams still occupying the bubble – but he managed to check in without sounding the alarm.
“They dropped me off right outside and there’s a place where I guess deliveries come in or couriers come in,” Pritchard said Friday morning. “One of the NHL security guards met me there and then we went to the hotel and I had to do a COVID test there and I checked in and then I went to my room .
“It was very limited people who saw me: the nurse, the counter, the security. The street was empty, the hotel lobby was empty.
Since then, Pritchard has been doing quarantine in his hotel room. He’s undergoing a test administered daily – he alternates between a nasal swab and a throat swab – and should be allowed to officially enter the bubble by Saturday.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped create this unique playoff tournament, but some traditions remain unchanged. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly is expected to crown the conference champions while NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to hand over the Stanley Cup after Pritchard and Craig Campbell parade it on the ice.
However, what happens after that point is still being worked out, according to Pritchard.
Usually, the players pass them by, while kissing, hoisting and drinking. Teams that win on the road usually head straight back to their play town for more parties and a parade. In the weeks that follow, each member of the team can then spend a day with the Cup in a location of their choice.
Travel restrictions or COVID-related health concerns appear to pose challenges to each of these traditions.
“We still have two and a half weeks [to finalize a plan] and over the last two and a half weeks that has changed a lot, ”said Pritchard. “It’s really too early to tell what’s going on. We’re pretty sure there will be a Stanley Cup champion, that there will be some kind of celebration and it will be unique.
“What it is, that we don’t know yet.”
We are in 2020 after all.
While serving his quarantine, Pritchard managed to watch each of the final conference games on television. And despite the unique circumstances, he sees the same level of intensity and competitiveness demanded of every former champion.
“It’s a real team event,” said Pritchard. “The team inside this bubble [that’s going to win], they’re pretty tight right now, I’m sure. And whoever that champion is, it will be special.
When the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association were working on planning for the return to play in the spring, there was never any question of whether he would be there to help crown the champion.
“If you’ve got a Stanley Cup winner, you’ve got to have the Stanley Cup there,” Pritchard said.