Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lord Stanley's Mug

I really don't even know how to begin this entry.

About two minutes after drinking from the most hallowed trophy in all of sports, I turned to my buddy Foley, and through eyes misting over with drunken emotion, I muttered: "I can't believe I just drank from the fucking Stanley Cup..."

And I'm still having a hard time believing it. Because honestly, if you'd asked me five years ago what I were more likely to experience in my lifetime, and offered the two equally impossible options of: summiting Mount Everest or sipping from The Cup; I would have told you that it was probably more likely that I'd climb to the top of the world's most famous peak... and we all knew that was never happening.

I've done some things in my day. But I have to tell you that drinking out of The Stanley Cup; with the names of the greatest players to ever play the game etched into it, and with the knowledge that they too had sipped from that very chalice; was probably the best 5 seconds of my life. And I say that without hyperbole or shame. It's what I'll remember as the lights fade to black.

And I owe it all to Huskerdu. I don't even know how to thank you. Somehow, I don't think there are enough Red Bull-and-Vodkas in all of the Madison Avenue Pub.

But before all of the lifelong-dream-fulfilling, there was considerable preamble, as you might well expect. Ronnie, Flats, Dinner, Nagai and I piled into two rides just after five o'clock and hooked up at the Port Hope service centre for a convoy that consisted of erotic text messaging ("are you hard?", "are you wearing panties?", and "yes, but they're no longer dry" being the obvious highlights) and one of life's great piss stops, to go along with Flats' polishing of a dozen or so Silver Bullets in the passenger seat of Dinner's car. We pulled into our Nation's Capital just after 10pm and checked into the Quality Inn, fully understanding that the meaning of the word "Quality" was about to be compromised.

Flats had a bottle of duty free Grey Goose (he and Nagai had played 18 holes earlier that morning in Buffalo; Dinner had also played 18 {and shot a 72}; I had slept until 1:30 in the afternoon) that we proceeded to obliterate in about 45 minutes, with an assist going to Sully, fresh off a drive in from the 'Boro; before heading out into the Ottawa night. As we stepped into the elevator and looked at one another, each dressed to the nines in "go-to" garb, the phrase "Murderer's Row" was getting tossed around like Valtrex at the Mexico Estate.

By the time we arrived at the bar (it may or may not have been called "Nine"), we were feeling absolutely no pain. Husker and the rest of the Natty Light poolies were representing hard, and what little I remember of the night consisted of introducing my shit-faced self by using both my first and last name to equally shit-faced people I'd been trash-talking for four years via that wonderful combination of Fantasy Football and the internet. The Vaughn boys. The Farquhar brothers. Lawson. City Guys C-note, MLSE McGlynn, and of course the legendary Chubbs were all in attendance, and along with the rest of the 416 poolies, the group of us were celebrating the largest NLFL summit meeting in history by drinking enough alcohol to kill a small Indonesian village. An old lady friend of Dinner's also showed up only to have her dreams shattered by the news that Mike Foley had been recently engaged. There really are a lot of broken hearts out there.

By last call, most of the Almonte contingent had stretched Chubbs shirt to the point that it resembled something that an early-80's-Molly-Ringwold would proudly sport, and after ripping it off completely, they put him up on their shoulders and crowd-surfed him around the bar. I could have sworn I was at a stop somwhere along the Dookie Tour. And apparently the good people of Ottawa have taken to the notion that "Oaf's a Joke".

Brianna, our old friend from home, invited us back to a house party up the street, and we obviously took her up on it. We walked in there like we owned the place, and my only regret of the night is that I didn't strap on one of the helmets sitting on the pile of bicycles littering the front hallway: it would have made a hell of an entrance. As it was, we helped ourselves to any beverages we could find, and quickly made friends. It turns out nobody knew who was hosting the party. I vaguely remember having a lengthy conversation concerning chest hair with a girl, a gay man, and another equally bewhiskered male (all present were in favour of the Neanderthal look, for the record), and the feeling that there was an 8th grade vibe in the living room. We ended up at the Elgin Street Diner for what was unquestionably the best poutine I've ever had, before stumbling back to the room just before 5.

Nothing like a quiet night before the big day.

We awoke the next morning waaaaay too early. I have no idea how someone was conscious at 9:30, but they decided to turn on the TV, and in a Lion's Den of a hotel room with six dudes, it was enough to rouse us all. Foley stepped off his red eye flight and came directly to the "Quality" (he was smart enough to secure his own room - there's a reason he's a big shot), and we headed to Cora's for a breakfast accented by the feeling of general discomfort and fruit smoothies we vowed to never speak of. In order to cure our ridiculous hangovers we headed straight for the liquor store and bought ourselves some liquid provisions, hanging around the hotel room with the curtains drawn and watching the PGA Championship on the tube. Really taking in the sights, I know.

At three o'clock we piled into the Sully Van and cruised into Almonte, stopping for a great pic at the town sign which will soon surely read: "The home of James Naismith and Kent Huskins". It's really only a matter of time. We pulled into the Mill of Kintail about three minutes ahead of Husker and Mikey White Gloves, and stood around in absolute awe as Mikey handed Husky the cup. I'm telling you, that trophy turns everyone into a little kid. We had the champ pose for a few hoisting pics, and then he just set it down on the picnic table where it sat for the rest of the day. Everyone had their turn posing with it, and after the tubs full of beer showed up, the event quickly became a great little party. And it was funny because after awhile people kind of forgot The Cup was there, so you could go and sit with it by yourself for awhile, reading the names and taking it all in. Fantastic.

The volunteers from the Almonte Civitan club did a beautiful job dishing out the burgers and beer, and Husky did his best to accomodate everyone, despite the fact that he probably just wanted to have a few beers and play with the walkie talkies. Just a class act in every regard. In fact, if my high school English teacher had been present for the barbecue, he might have said that Kent Huskins handled the entire afternoon with aplomb... but of course, I would never say that.

In any event, the Silver Bullets were going down with aplomb, and just as the sun was beginning to set, we boarded a cheese wagon for the trip to Grace O'Malley's, making a pit stop at "Naismith's", a tiny sports bar in town that had no idea what they were in for when Husker strolled in with The Cup. By the time we got back on the bus, Mikey White Gloves was pretty well shitting himself, knowing that he would have to be separated from the Holy Grail as it sat in a seat next to Husker, Mikey White Gloves trailing close behind in his Buick.

What happened next was simply magical, as Husker, without any warning, poured a beer into The Cup and tipped it to Flats... and we sat there front and centre, watching as every guy on that bus turned into a little kid, having a lifelong dream fulfilled. I can't adequately describe how incredible an experience it was.

The next thing I knew, I was sitting there with Husker tipping The Cup into my face, drinking deeply from what will forever be remembered as the greatest beer I've ever experienced. I really didn't ever think the first beer my dad ever gave me could be topped (Coco's, Grand Bend, Coor's Extra Gold, age 16), but I have to tell you that this one probably did. Sorry Dad. It was a Labatt's Blue. It was cold and frothy. And it was glorious.

I mean, look at that. That is the face of a man who has just undergone a religious experience. I have no other means of describing it.

The rest of the night could have consisted of someone repeatedly kicking me in the nuts until sunrise and it still would have gone down as one of the five best nights of my life.

We arrived at Gracie's and Mikey White Gloves jumped out of his Buick so fast that he very well may have left it running in the middle of the street. He wanted to make sure The Cup was in good hands, and as Husker stepped off the bus, he decided that it very obviously was (despite the fact that Almonte's favourite son almost dropped it in the paparazzi-like barage of camera flash). We piled into the bar for $3 everything, and what ensued in the aftermath can only be described in degrees of Gong Show. And this was a show to the tenth degree. Way too many shots. Way too many Coronas. Way too many Calzone's from a pizzeria in Potsdam, NY.

As C-Note put it: "The 416 crew was unreal in their VIP area better known as the shirt stain zone!". Flats took some time away from working on his '83 Corvette with Frankie to score himself a sweet "STAFF" T-shirt and a beautiful baby, while the rest of us ripped it up on the dance floor and looked on in fascinated horror as the Almonte crew stripped down to their skivvies and engaged in some kind of ancient pagan fertility ritual.

We eventually ended up back at the hotel, and to absolutely nobody's surprise, found ourself out on the street less than an hour later. Apparently when the manager comes up to the 14th floor to tell you to keep it down, Sully isn't necessarily the most qualified negotiator to send to the table. Calming discretion never was his strong suit. We tried sending Murph out to smooth things over, Peel badge in hand, but he came back into the room about fifteen seconds later, informing us that it was time to pack our bags.

At what point does it become embarrassing for a 29-year old to be thrown out of a hotel? I'd say about six years ago. The fact that the hotel manager challenged Sully to a fist fight out in the street was almost comedic by that point... And Nagai's new lucky number can be nothing but 14.

Luckily for us, my good friend Emily was in attendance, and her mom lives about ten minutes from the "Quality". So we spent what little remained of the night there. Emily's mom is a judge, and she was waaaaaay too understanding: she actually welcomed us into her home, when what we really deserved at that point was a bench looking out onto the Rideau Canal. So we very obviously owe her a debt of serious gratitude.

But maybe not the same debt as we owe Husker. In all honesty, it will go down as one of the great nights of our collective lives. I remember after drinking from The Cup, I stood up on that rollicking school bus, with beer still dripping from my face and the knowledge that my life would probably never be the same. I put my hand on the shoulder of the man who had just allowed me to sip from The Stanley Cup, and could only muster "Thank You....". I was utterly speechless.

As I am now.


And for an incomplete history of some of the other places The Cup has ventured (including Mess's infamous jaunt with the Mug to Scores), check out this piece by Patrick Hruby.


Anonymous said...

That is the best fuckin story you've ever told full stop.

Anonymous said...

Another classic entry... nothin like laughing out loud on the John at work!

Anonymous said...

"Ya, there were definitely some crazy parties with the cup this summer, but nothing was crazier than your group of buddies... holy f#ck those guys were mental!!! Getzlaf's crew was probably a close second, but your buddies took the cake. What a bunch of absolute beauties. By the way, what's up with the whole shirts off thing???"

-direct quote from Mikey "White-Gloves", Keeper of the Cup 08/30/07

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