Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cup of Hope

(The following feature was taken from CSNNE.com):

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

SOUTH BOSTON – The first time I kissed the Stanley Cup was in 1994.

South Boston’s own Brian Noonan won it with the New York Rangers, and brought it home for the rest of the neighborhood to enjoy.

Perhaps “enjoy” isn’t the right word. If you’ve ever been in the same room as the Cup, then you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the same room as the Stanley Cup twice now, after it made its way to L Street Tavern in my hometown of South Boston last Wednesday night.

It was the first time the damn thing graced the streets of Southie since 1994, thanks to the Bruins’ remarkable championship run.

There weren’t any players with it, though. The actual Bruins themselves didn’t bring it to Southie during their multinight binge on the town. Instead, they took it to Charlestown, the North End, and Foxwoods.

Maybe I’m missing a few stops along the way. But the point being, they never brought it to Southie, and unless some of my Dot-rat friends were sworn into complete secrecy, they never brought the Cup to Dorchester either.

As two hockey-crazed communities, both deserved a chance to see the Cup up close and in person.

Luckily for my community of South Boston, we had our night with it on Wednesday.

It capped a two-week Cup-hunt throughout the city, a two-week period in which the only Cup me and my friends could get a picture of, was with the life-sized inflatable Stanley Cup we purchased online during the Finals.

It showed up in the mail the morning of Game 7. It was immediately inflated, and put in a closet, only to be revealed to the rest of the party if the Bruins were hoisting the actual, 35 pound trophy at the end of the game.

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The moment Brad Marchand’s empty netter made it 4-0, the inflatable Cup came out, and it went everywhere our crew went. Castle Island, M Street beach, L Street Tavern, Atlantic Beer Garden. If we were there, the inflatable Stanley Cup was with us.

That’s another reason why the Cup is so special. I mean, do they even make an inflatable Lombardi Trophy? And if they did, would you even want to be seen carrying it around down the beach or at a bar?

Sure, laugh about how childish an inflatable Stanley Cup may seem, especially for a bunch of Southie kids in their mid-to-late 20’s to be taking it with them everywhere they go. But I’m willing to guarantee that if you were around it, you’d be the first to come over and ask to hoist it for a picture.

I can actually remember telling my mother that I felt like I, personally, won the Stanley Cup, with the way people were gravitating to the 2-pound balloon in local establishments.

It was all in good fun of course, but people in Southie wanted to spend a few moments with the actual Cup so badly, that they were willing to settle for our party toy.

In the weeks following the Bruins’ Game 7 win, my crew was tipped off and we were told to make our way to several local establishments in which the real Stanley Cup would “possibly” be showing up.

While coming from reliable sources, none of those tips ever led us to Lord Stanley. And I must admit, being part of these “Cup hunts” was sometimes difficult, because I am an active member of the Boston media.

When I’m on the clock, I do my job. But I’ll never lose my passion for the sport of hockey. That would be a sin.

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I grew up in South Boston, a place where your skates are laced up and you’re thrown onto the ice down the little rink with Arnie’s Army at the age of 6, learning to walk on water, whether you like it or not. Most continue to love it and play for years, like myself. It’s a way of life in our neighborhood, our 11th commandment if you will.

You play every day in the winter, and spend summer mornings inside a rink for one reason: to eventually win a Stanley Cup. And when you realize that dream is dead, you hope for a friend or for your local team to carry out that dream for you.

So my passion for hockey isn’t going anywhere. And therefore, neither is my passion for the Bruins, or even for the Stanley Cup.

The same goes for the entire community. And I’m sure that passion is no different in other hockey-crazed towns throughout New England. But I’m only in one place at one time. And when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, I was only in South Boston.

For two weeks that followed, the only Cup sighting in Southie was our inflatable one, until this past Wednesday night, when a “tip from a source” finally paid off, and Lord Stanley finally made its way through the back door at L Street Tavern, or as we locals call it, “Striggies.”

And as “the Cup guy” (isn’t that what everyone calls him?) carried the shiny trophy to the back of the bar with his white gloves on, there wasn’t one person whose eyes didn’t light up.

That’s what the Stanley Cup does. It lights up a room like no other physical object in the history of the world.

For every minute spent with it, nothing else matters. Personal issues, everyday stress, it’s all blocked out. It’s just you and the Cup. And it’s a feeling that simply can’t be described to perfection.

The first time I saw the Stanley Cup in person, I was 11 years old. My mother came out front and told me and my friend Ryan Sweeney to get on our bikes and head to the old Abbey (a local Southie bar that is now closed), where our fathers were drinking out of the Cup, courtesy of Brian Noonan.

So off I went on my black spray-painted Huffy White Heat, my San Jose Sharks hat (I loved their unis), and a feeling of overwhelming excitement. It was the same feeling I had last Wednesday night, when someone inside L Street Tavern yelled, “It’s here!”

The Cup had arrived back in Southie for the first time since 1994. And for the short period of time that we got to spend with it, nobody in the place had any other care in the world.

And while the multiple pictures I took with the Cup are priceless, it was even more fulfilling to witness the rest of the neighborhood experience what I had already experienced as an 11-year-old kid who didn’t yet know just how to appreciate someone else’s bliss.

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As I looked around L Street Tavern, I realized that this Stanley Cup meant so much more to this city than I had ever imagined. It was the missing piece in many people’s lives. It was more than just a flashy trophy you could drink out of.

It was a sign of hope.

The same sign of hope that younger Southie kids showed when they wouldn’t even touch our inflatable Cup, thinking that it would jinx their chances of winning the real thing one day.

The same sign of hope that Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli showed when he signed a 35-year-old goaltender to a 4-year, $20 million deal, thinking that he’d one day lead the B’s to the promised land.

The same sign of hope that Nathan Horton showed when he brought melted TD Garden ice with him to Vancouver in a water bottle, and dumped it in front of his bench before Game 7, thinking that it would cure Boston’s road woes.

The same sign of hope that me and my friends showed by hanging around our local bar until 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night, thinking that the Stanley Cup would eventually show up, when there were no guarantees it would.

As it turns out, the Cup showed up, and hope was fulfilled.

So I kissed it again.


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