Penguins Players, Coaches Tell Tales of Day with the Cup

By Gorman, Kevin | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 2, 2009 | Go to article overview

Penguins Players, Coaches Tell Tales of Day with the Cup


Gorman, Kevin, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Dan Bylsma couldn't resist the temptation.

While playing for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the Stanley Cup Final in 2003, Bylsma extensively planned how he would spend his day with the trophy.

"It's a tough thought not to do as you get close to the finals," Bylsma said. "The Cup should be about some intimate moments, what you want to do with it."

The dream was delayed when the Ducks lost to the New Jersey Devils in seven games in the Final. Six years later, in his first season as an NHL head coach, Bylsma led the Penguins to an upset of the defending champion Detroit Red Wings and finally was able to hoist the Holy Grail of hockey.

"One of the players said it after we won: 'When you hold the Cup, your hockey life flashes before your eyes,'" he said. "I remember coaches and players and rinks and hard times and setbacks and battles and sacrifices -- that all kind of plays out in your mind as you hold that Cup over your head.

"Right away, you think about sharing it with the people and the community that you grew up in because there are so many people that are part of it."

Bylsma described taking the Cup back to his hometown of Grand Haven, Mich. - a resort city in the heart of Red Wings country - Aug. 11 and 12 as a "day changer" with plenty of unforgettable moments, from fishing with it on Lake Michigan to taking it to his cabin.

"The one that is real vivid -- and I don't particularly know why - - but we put about 15 scoops of ice cream in the bowl and there were nieces and nephews and sons and daughters around that bowl, scooping it out of the Cup," Bylsma said. "There were maybe 40 people. It was the kids' moment to share in the Cup. You've just got a big smile on your face. That was one of the defining moments of that day that I'll remember."

The Hockey Hall of Fame allows members of the Stanley Cup champions to spend a day with the Cup. The Penguins shared stories about their time with the most cherished trophy in professional sports:

'Operation Homecoming'

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby says seeing the reaction on people's faces when they see the Stanley Cup never gets old. Imagine their astonishment with Crosby's arrival in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

In what was dubbed Operation Homecoming by the Canadian military, Crosby celebrated his 22nd birthday Aug. 7 by land, air and sea -- though not in that order -- with 80,000 of his closest friends, including Game 7 hero Max Talbot.

The Canadian Armed Forces flew Crosby and the Cup on a Sea King helicopter to the Halifax Dockyard. It landed on the flight deck of the HMCS Preserver, which is docked as part of the Canadian Navy's Atlantic Fleet, and the entourage was later transported by light- armored vehicles.

"When we talked to the military about doing something, it was important to them that we included the Army, the Navy and the Air Force," Crosby said. "They didn't want us just driving up to the ship and being on board. They wanted to do it, I guess, in style.

"They offered the helicopter ride, and I'd never been on a helicopter, so I said sure. It was a pretty neat experience, to go through all that and to share it with the Stanley Cup right next to you. It's better than you could have dreamed, really."

Crosby admits he was "a little bit" nervous about his first helicopter flight.

"When you're throwing all the gear on, and they're giving you a little briefing about safety and, I guess, what ifs," Crosby said, "that's when I started to think about it."

He lived to tell about the triumphant return to his hometown of Cole Harbour, where he was grand marshal of a parade on Sidney Crosby Day.

"It was exactly how I wanted it when it was planned," Crosby said. "Everything just worked out perfect."

Charitable causes

While sharing the Cup with as many people as possible is the goal, many of the Penguins used their day with the trophy to raise money for the charitable cause of their choice. …

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