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Maybe it's because the players have to sacrifice so hard to earn it, or because it's the longest-lasting trophy or maybe it's simply because it's one of the few trophies that players get to have their names engraved on, but the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup is the icon of all professional sports trophies.
Los Angeles Kings senior scout Rob Laird and his wife, Madeleine, are hosting the cup at a celebration open to the public 5:30-7:30 p.m. today at HOPE for Animals, 1333 Maycrest Drive. Each member of a winning team gets the cup for a day during the summer, and this is Laird's day.
There are 12 Komets who have gone on to win the cup, and all of them have fascinating stories adding to its lore.
Who was one of the first stars to immediately announce his retirement after winning the cup? Remember the end of the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers dynasties? Ever wonder what happened to the puck Brett Hull scored in overtime of Game 6 in 1999? How about how the tradition started of players getting individual time with the cup?
Komets were involved in all of that.
John Ferguson, the first Komet to make it to the NHL, became one of the first and most likely the quickest player to hang up his skates after winning a Stanley Cup. Minutes after his 1971 Montreal Canadiens beat the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7, Ferguson said he was quitting at age 32.
Ferguson leads the list of former Komets with five Stanley Cup titles, ahead of Gord Lane with four, and Shawn Chambers and Hector Marini with two NHL titles.
``Nowadays you don't play for the team logo anymore, but you play for the dollar sign,'' Ferguson said in 2002. ``Despite that, the cup still has great meaning. Most of the free agents now say they won't play with anyone unless they have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.''
The NHL purchased the cup in 1893 for about $50 and started awarding it to its champion in 1927. Slightly more than 1,000 people have had their names inscribed on it. The cup is insured for $75,000 but has been estimated to be worth more than $3 million.
``I don't know exactly how heavy it is, but when I first lifted it, it's heavier than you ever imagined,'' Chambers said. ``It takes you by surprise. You don't feel it right there when you are on the ice. You know it's a little heavy, but afterward you start to realize how heavy it is.''
The celebration of a title starts as soon as the game ends. Chambers was on the ice for the end both times he won the cup, in 1995 with New Jersey and in 1999 with Dallas.
``The first time the puck went behind the net and I was talking to (goaltender Martin) Brodeur,'' Chambers said. ``Everybody was hugging him, and I saw the puck behind the net, so I grabbed it.''
That was good preparation for the 1999 title. Seconds after Hull scored his controversial overtime goal to beat Buffalo, Chambers grabbed the puck in the corner and shoved it down his pants. One of the most famous pucks in hockey history is on top of Chambers' television set in northern Minnesota.
``We are in the midst of building a new house,'' Chambers said in 2002. ``Once I get in there I'll figure out what I want to do with them. Those are about the only souvenirs I have.''
Chambers also had the task of taking the cup home to Detroit after the Devils had beaten the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals.
``The only people in Detroit rooting for me were from my family, and not even all of them,'' he said. ``My uncles are huge die-hard Red Wings fans. It was fun.''
Marini also had fun with the cup. He was part of the New York Islanders' four Stanley Cups teams in 1981 and 1982.
``Sometimes I think I'm still celebrating,'' he said.
Marini did not play in either final game, though he scored nine points in nine games to help the Islanders get to the finals in 1981. He was filling in for Duane Sutter who returned to the lineup after recovering from an injury.
``The great thing that I can remember is that Jimmy Devellano - the guy who scouted me and believed in me when no one else did - and I took the cup on a cruise around Manhattan,'' Marini said. ``We managed to take the cup and no one noticed. It was just the two of us with the cup sitting between us for a couple of hours. We had dinner and drinks and then took it back.''
Marini gave his first Stanley Cup ring to his father and kept the second, though he rarely wears it. Lane, Marini's former teammate, was part of all four championship New York teams.
``The biggest thing I remember was not so much the satisfaction of winning it, but the satisfaction that it was over,'' Lane said. ``It was such a grueling thing.''
The Islanders' run ended in 1984 when the Edmonton Oilers started their streak of five cups in seven years. When their reign ended in 1990, Pokey Reddick was the backup goaltender. He is the only Komet to win both the Stanley Cup and Turner Cup.
``You can't even describe it, you just have to go through it,'' Reddick said. ``It's almost as if by trying to describe it you are cheating yourself. It's almost like having your first kid. It's awesome.''
During his day with the cup, he took pictures of 3-year-old son, Bryce, sitting in the cup. Then Reddick sat down to read all the names and think about all the history associated with them.
One of those names was Ferguson, who said during his career the players were not allowed to take the cup for a day. The Montreal players saw it at a windup party at city hall, and that was it. The next day the players spent the afternoon at coach Toe Blake's tavern.
The post-game parties are now a tradition. In 1991, while working for Pittsburgh's Muskegon farm team, current Komets equipment manager Joe Franke was helping the Penguins during the playoffs. As the Penguins celebrated winning their first title in Minnesota, Franke was on the ice helping pick up equipment, part of which belonged to Randy Gilhen and Grant Jennings.
``At the end of the whole thing we got to hold the cup and get our picture taken with it,'' Franke said. ``When it came off the airplane, I don't know how we made it through the airport. It was like a gantlet. They had to have crowd control all the way to Mario's (Lemieux) house.''
Gilhen was finishing his last shift of the game when the final horn went off. Because Pittsburgh beat Minnesota 8-0, the end was somewhat anticlimactic. He knew just what to do when Jimmy Paek passed him the cup.
``I wanted to take it over to the guys who hadn't played,'' Gilhen said. ``They were just standing there on the ice, but they had played a big part in that team, too.''
That group included Jennings, who also won the cup again with the Penguins a year later. That is when the cup sank to the bottom of Lemieux's pool.
A year after that, Franke was helping the Komets put the International Hockey League's Turner Cup back together after it was run over by a forklift when a player dropped it. Sometimes he wears his Stanley Cup ring around the Komets' locker room.
Former Komets coach John Torchetti said his favorite memory from the 2010 celebration was watching his mother get her picture taken with the trophy and his father getting doused with champagne.
``What I've been working for my whole life was that cup,'' Torchetti said. ``Everything that I worked so hard for was all worth it times 50 when I got to kiss it."
Eventually, the parties end and the cup goes back to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto with the names of 24 to 26 new players engraved on it.
``I still have the tapes of the finals, and I often have some of my buddies over to watch them,'' Lane said. ``Even my daughters who never saw me play will sit and watch them. I find myself getting as involved in them now as I did 20-some years ago. It's just a lot of fun to sit there and watch and feel it all over again.''
Gilhen got to feel that again a few years ago when he and a friend toured the Hall of Fame in Toronto and looked at the cup.
``It's one of those trophies that every player who has won it feels like they own a part of it,'' Gilhen said. ``You remember all those little memories that go on. It's a pretty special feeling.''
* John Ferguson, Montreal Canadiens, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1971.
* Shawn Chambers, New Jersey Devils, 1995, Dallas Stars, 1999.
* Joe Franke, Pittsburgh Penguins trainer, 1991
* Pokey Reddick, Edmonton Oilers, 1990.
* Gord Lane, New York Islanders, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983.
* Hector Marini, New York Islanders, 1981, 1982.
* Randy Gilhen, Pittsburgh Penguins, 1991.
* Grant Jennings, Pittsburgh Penguins, 1991, 1992.
* Andre Roy, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2004
* John Torchetti, Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach, 2010
* Clint Reif, Chicago Blackhawks equipment manager, 2010
* Rob Laird, Los Angeles Kings senior pro scout, 2012
Komets who won WHA Avco Cups
* Marc Boileau, Quebec Nordiques (coach), 1977.
* Bob Fitchner, Quebec Nordiques, 1977.
* John Ferguson, Winnipeg Jets (general manager), 1979.
* Tom McVie, Winnipeg Jets (coach), 1979.