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As Escort for the Stanley Cup, His Job Is to Keep His Eye on the Prize

A Hockey Hall of Fame employee keeps the well-traveled and formerly mistreated trophy as safe as a puck in a goalie's mitt.

June 01, 2003|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

There are a few things the Stanley Cup won't be doing this summer.

Unlikely to visit a strip club. (Unseemly.) Probably won't ride a roller coaster. (Don't want it flying out.) And isn't going to fill in as the ball for a neighborhood game of catch. (Dents are a risk.)

No, ever since the New York Rangers' well-documented summer of '94 with Stanley -- a summer that left the Cup cracked and dented and with a less-than-wholesome image -- the trophy's been saddled with an official keeper.

That job, also known as The Best Job in the World, is held by three Hockey Hall of Fame employees. One of them is Mike Bolt.

"We just want to keep it safe and respectable," said Bolt, 34, who escorted the trophy back to Orange County on Saturday as the Ducks returned for their first home game of the Stanley Cup finals. For added reverence, he uses white gloves when handling hockey's Holy Grail. He gives it a daily bath and wipe down and, when it's particularly tarnished, a good once over with the silver polish.

After the New York Rangers' misadventures with the Stanley Cup in 1994, former silversmith Ole Peterson, whose family was commissioned to redesign the Cup in 1962, said, "The amount of disrespect shown it is mind-boggling.... These jocks should not be behaving like jerks."

In a one-month span, various members of the Rangers took it to a strip club, to the "Late Show With David Letterman" for Stupid Cup Tricks, stuffed it with raw clams and oysters on MTV, and passed it down a conga line on New York's 89th Street. At a Manhattan bar, it was filled with Cristal, Dom Perignon, White Star and, ultimately, Budweiser. Just about everyone had the chance to sip from the 35-pound Cup.

But Bolt says it wasn't just the Rangers that brought on the changes.

"There were some things going on that shouldn't have been going on," he said. "It was getting a little damaged, ending up places where it shouldn't be. That's not good press for the Cup and the [National Hockey] league."

One 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins tale is so legendary it ended up as a book title: "Why Is the Stanley Cup in Mario Lemieux's Swimming Pool?" A teammate took a dive with it and the Cup was later found at the bottom of the pool.

It seems the stuff of urban legend, but many of the most outrageous scenarios are true. In 1905, an Ottawa player drop-kicked it into the frozen Rideau Canal, forgot about it and came back for it the next day.

Members of the Montreal Canadiens also abandoned the Cup in 1924, albeit briefly. After changing a flat tire, they left the Cup on the side of the road in Montreal. They returned awhile later to recover it.

And in 1940, members of the New York Rangers celebrated their good fortune by urinating in it.

Now that Bolt's on the job, hockey officials have been trying to give the Cup more respect. Stanley Cup-winning hockey players -- each given a day with the trophy -- must have their plans approved. And everywhere the Cup goes, Bolt follows.

"Guys take it for a ride on their Harleys, fishing on their boats," Bolt said. "Some guys go golfing. It sits on the golf cart and guys will take pictures on different fairways."

He figures he's on the road as many as 200 days a year, logging about 100,000 miles. He's not keeping a journal. There are no pushpins on a map marking the places he's been.

But on those long flights, when he gets bored, Bolt said he'll pull out the airline magazine, look at the map and think to himself, "Holy cow, I can't believe I've been here."

He's been to all but six or seven of the states. "Alaska and Hawaii are two I haven't been to. And Wyoming and Montana."

There is no Cup journal, but Bolt has a heck of a photo album, including one picture of the Cup on a beach chair in the Bahamas and another of it atop a mountain in Colorado.

For that four-mile hike up Mt. Elbert with a Colorado Avalanche executive, the Cup was outfit with a special backpack.

"I carried it a minute," Bolt said. "The rest of the time the other guys, whose idea it was, carried it. It was a tough challenge, but it was all worthwhile when we got to the top."

Oh, sure, Bolt's job has its downsides. He does so much traveling, he said, he has to replace his luggage every year. And every once in awhile, if he's jet setting from city to city, "I get a little confused, but I usually know where I am."

Like Saturday, when he drove from Seal Beach to Huntington Beach to Newport Beach in a Dodge Viper, soaking up the rays, Stanley at his side.

But he's not complaining.

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