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Hefferon: Because it’s the Cup (May 1)

Jack Hefferon | Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I’ve been trying for three years to win one of those damned RecSports champion t-shirts. I already have too many t-shirts to wear, and it usually has some ridiculous design or color scheme on it that would make it a back-of-the-rotation shirt at best. But that shirt represents the one shining moment when you stood on top of the world and defeated all comers to declare yourself as the greatest – or at least more sober than the other broomball squad on the ice.

It’s the same with the Masters. In almost every situation, a green sport jacket is nothing more than an aggressive fashion statement or a great $12-find at your local thrift shop. But when it’s emblazoned with the logo of Augusta National Golf Club and presented in Butler Cabin, it represents an elite fraternity of those who have faced golf’s greatest test and passed. It’s unique, an icon unto itself and an unmistakable symbol of history and greatness – everything a trophy needs.

And that’s why it’s the second-best trophy in sports.

The Masters green jacket only claims silver on my list of best trophies, and that’s because of a very special piece of silver in its own right. Because when it comes down to it, nothing compares to the Stanley Cup.

The Cup was commissioned by Lord Stanley of Preston, Governor General of Canada, in 1892, and has been awarded nearly every year since then to North America’s best hockey club. Its charm is in its history and tradition, which really can be attributed to the fact that a new Cup isn’t made every year, unlike the trophies of America’s other three major leagues.

Admittedly, there is some novelty to having multiple championship trophies in your case. But compared to holding and having your name carved into the Cup that’s been held by Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe and Lord Stanley himself? That idea is priceless.

The league has differentiated itself by centering its playoffs around the pursuit of the Cup. It’s not the “NHL Playoffs,” it’s the “Stanley Cup Playoffs.” Nobody ever brags they’ve won 27 Commissioner’s Trophies or a dozen Larry O’Brien Trophies – awarded to the MLB and NBA champions in the likely case that, like me, you didn’t know.

In fact, for the past several years, the NHL has marketed its playoffs with one simple phrase: “Because it’s the Cup.”

And after a team wins the Cup, the traditions really take hold. Every player takes the Cup for a lap around the ice, then gets a personal day with it during the following year. The Cup has been in parades, fallen through whitewater rapids and often functioned as a morning cereal bowl for a player – each of which only adds to its mystique.

Most frequently though, a player will take the Cup back to his hometown as a win to be shared with everyone that helped him eventually become an NHL champion. Small Canadian towns that wouldn’t miss a beat in an eight-foot blizzard come to a standstill when the Cup comes to town, and even the toughest have been reduced to tears at the sight of it. It’s not only tough to touch the trophy, as it travels with specially designated bodyguards, but foolish to even try, as anyone who lifts the Cup without winning it is cursed to never win it.

So I’ll have to stay away from sports’ greatest trophy for the time being, at least until I learn how to skate and win it for real.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll just settle for a RecSports t-shirt.

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu
   

The views in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.