Stanley Cup lands in Ottawa for 125th anniversary celebrations

NHL alumni Rick Smith, Paul Coffey, Bernie Parent, Mike Bossy, Frank Mahovlich, Dave Keon and Guy Lafleur at the Canadian Museum of History on Wednesday, March 15, 2017, for the Stanley Cup 125th Evening Celebration. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)

While most towns have to cheer through to springtime to get the Stanley Cup, Ottawa just had to wait for it to celebrate a milestone birthday. The iconic piece of hockey hardware has hit the nation’s capital as part of a four-day celebration of the Cup’s 125th anniversary.

A crowd of close to 200 gathered at the Canadian Museum of History on Wednesday for a special evening with hockey legends Mike Bossy, Paul Coffey, Dave Keon, Guy Lafleur, Frank Mahovlich, Bernie Parent and Rick Smith, all of whom played on teams that won one or more Stanley Cups.

The Cup made quite an entrance, receiving fanfare from the trumpet-playing Governor General’s Foot Guards.

Shawn Rivers, president of Anish Branding and Gunn Media, watched in awe as the Holy Grail of hockey was carried into the Grand Hall.

“Seeing it always gives me chills; I think because we all grew up with it, as Canadians,” said Rivers, who played in the NHL, as did his brother, Jamie Rivers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy with the Detroit Red Wings. “Our family was close (to a Cup championship) but not that close,” said Rivers. “It’s a really hard, almost unattainable trophy to win.”

Other NHL alumni in attendance included Fred Barrett, Jim Kyte, Kent Manderville and Doug Smith.

Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin and his Ottawa counterpart, Jim Watson, were there. So was Liberal MP Stéphane Lauzon (Argenteuil-La Petite Nation) and Steve Ball, president of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association and board co-chair of Ottawa 2017, which is involved in a series of Stanley Cup tributes.

Attendees cozied up to the Cup for a photo, as well as to meet the hockey hall of famers and tour the museum’s new Hockey in Canada – More Than Just a Game exhibit.

The Stanley Cup, originally known as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, was donated by Lord Stanley of Preston, the sixth governor general of Canada, to be awarded to Canada’s top ranking amateur hockey club, back on March 18, 1892.

“It’s the oldest and most revered trophy in North American professional sports and certainly the most difficult to win,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the crowd in his remarks. “Tonight we celebrate that trophy and its glorious history.”

There is and always has been a strong historical bond between hockey and this city, Daly noted. “Ice hockey has been played in and around Ottawa since at least the 1880s.”

While previous Ottawa clubs have won the trophy, our modern-day Senators franchise is still chasing its first sip from the coveted champagne vessel.

Lafleur remembers winning his first of five Stanley Cups in 1973.

“It was a dream come true,” he told OBJ.social.

Bossy, who won four championships, described the Cup as the pinnacle of what hockey represents.

“It’s a pretty amazing trophy to win,” he said. “I’m happy that I won it, and happy that I was able to participate in all those Stanley Cups that I did, with my teammates.”

Coffey, who also won four Cups, described each win as more rewarding than the last.

“It’s such a hard championship to win that you appreciate it more and more the older you get and the longer you’re in your career,” he said.

There’s no fifth championship on his horizon, though. “Not for me, unfortunately,” said the retired player, before adding with a smile, “Unless you start an Old Timers’ League.”

The four-day celebration of the Stanley Cup’s anniversary will also include a visit by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who is the guest speaker at Friday morning’s sold-out Mayor’s Breakfast. The event is co-produced by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.

Bettman is widely expected to make an announcement about an outdoor NHL game, coinciding with this year’s celebrations surrounding Canada’s 150th anniversary, while he’s in Ottawa.