Recently, the Stanley Cup (emblem of the championship in North American professional ice hockey) appeared at Millennium Park in Chicago. After a messy summer of not being able to find it at the proper time, at last I had the correct day off. I went as early as I could to enjoy the Blackhawks’ championship by visiting “their” trophy.
I thought that the emphasis on the Cubs’ baseball playoffs at the time would reduce the wait. However, by 9 a.m. I found several thousand like-minded people in the park. (I saw several TV reporters asking “Any Cub fans here? Any Cub fans here?” Except for the one man in a blue Cubs jacket just in front of me, I think they were, well, off base.)
It was a long line — across the back of the chairs which fill the area nearest the bandshell, then along the wild curves of one side of that Frank Gehry structure and up to the stage. I tried taking a few photos while I waited, but I soon decided that I’d rather remember the occasion through observing it. I wanted to tell other people “Put the phone down, stop posing, and observe!”
The line snaked its way along, and it was fun just to be there, but I was determined to get closer this year. I’d come to a similar party in the summer of 2013 at Millennium Park, only to find that I couldn’t get any closer than the edges of the lawn — several hundred yards away from seeing the Cup as anything more than a tiny sparkle. I stayed and watched the replays of the 2013
victory, but I didn’t get in line… there was no time that day.
This year, I had the time and took it. I stayed in that line until about 12:30 — three hours and 15 minutes — before I walked up on the stage for a few precious moments with the trophy.
I had plenty of time to check the few photos I tried. As I approached the stage, I saw that my little phone wasn’t going to capture much detail.
It would be like my eyes were in 1996, when I was a few days away from the hospital. I got to see the Cup then, alone with its keeper and a cashier at the Blackhawks’ souvenir shop, but all I could register was “So much silver! So much engraving! So beautiful!”
All I remember about 1996’s look was how close I got — not the details.
I wanted better memories this time. Thus, when the city’s Special Events worker asked whether she could take my picture for me, I said no. (Only that gorgeous, beloved hunk of silver trophy could erase the memory of the stunned look on her face.)
Unlike the hundreds of people hugging, kissing, or otherwise posing with the Cup, I just walked up to it and observed it. I actually managed to read it — in engraved letters smaller than the ones I’m typing now. No posing, I had stuff to read!
I observed that despite the page-wide photos I’ve seen, one team’s worth of names on the Stanley Cup is about the size of an index card, three by five inches.
Each name is engraved in letters between the size of a newspaper caption and the agate type of the sports pages. (For those more comfortable with screen sizes, that’s about the size of the photo captions on this story.)
Even Niklas Hjalmarsson’s name looks barely an inch long, and the tiny letters only increase the admiration I feel for the workmanship of engraving.
I looked at the 2014-15 Blackhawks and their 2012-13 and 2009-10 predecessors, and loved finding them. Then I set off “back through time” and went looking for the previous Chicago champions, the 1960-61 Black Hawks (two words back then). I could practically feel the drought, and the joy of reading “Montreal Canadiens” several years in a row until — ha! There was the 1960-61 team.
I had just spotted that the engraving was a bit worse back then — Ken Wharram’s name is on its own line — when a voice called from somewhere, “We have to keep the line moving, ma’am.”
When I said later where I’d gone, a few people asked to see my pictures. You see most of them here. I like the darkest one best… the Cup in the shadows, a few moments before I came up for my visit.
OK, so I don’t have a “selfie.” I’ll settle for the best mental pictures yet of the Stanley Cup. Who else in the crowd could say that?
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