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Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Cup's keepers see it all

By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com

Wrigley
Adam Burish holds up the Cup from a rooftop across from Wrigley Field during the Cubs-Athletics game Tuesday night.

CHICAGO -- If you have not seen, drank from, kissed or at least cuddled the Stanley Cup yet, you're really not trying.

In fact, so many people have experienced one of the above, that it is becoming passé.

"Yeah, I drank from the Cup last night."

"[Snorting sound] I did that last week. It's coming to my barbecue this weekend."

"Oh yeah? Well, my neighbor's baby bathed in it."

Stanley Cup
Keeper of the Cup Mike Bolt, left, shows pop singer Justin Bieber and his mother the Stanley Cup trophy on June 4 in New York.

Some claim to already be bored by Cup talk, which is laughable. What, you'd really rather keep talking about the Cubs' outfield?

Mike Bolt can't get enough of it. Not that he has a choice as Lord Stanley's chaperone the past 11 years. Like anything else, it's a job -- sometimes an exhausting one -- but he doesn't come close to complaining, calling it an honor and saying it "never gets old" being on a continuous parade all summer.

He didn't even have to be prodded into raving about the reception the Cup has received in Chicago.

"Everywhere you go, whether it's New Jersey or wherever, teams say, 'You guys are the greatest fans ever,' and they should be thanking their fans," Bolt said. "But to be honest, in my 11 years I haven't experienced anything even close to Chicago. Detroit and Colorado were pretty wild, but Chicago has been unbelievable. We can't go anywhere without being mobbed."

For example, after returning Tuesday from Los Angeles, where paparazzi -- yawn -- snapped pics of Patrick Kane carrying the Cup into dinner and a club after the Hawks' appearance on "The Tonight Show," Bolt said the scene getting out of O'Hare was insane. After an escort by firefighters and police from the airport, Bolt was waiting for his ride when a police officer asked for a picture with the Cup. As he started to pull it out of its case, chaos ensued.

"Rental buses were stopping in the middle of the road because they saw the Cup and people were jumping out of the buses," Bolt said. "No one seemed worried about missing their flights. Cars were stopping, and we had to get the police to surround the Cup a little.

But to be honest, in my 11 years I haven't experienced anything even close to Chicago. Detroit and Colorado were pretty wild, but Chicago has been unbelievable. We can't go anywhere without being mobbed.

-- Cup chaperone Mike Bolt

"I've never dealt with a better police department ever than Chicago's, but I created a mess by pulling it out of its case. I know what the Cup means to so many people, and I'm aware that in Chicago, you can't do those things all the time."

But come on, it had to be fun.

"It was an incredible experience," Bolt said. "It's the power of the Cup."

There already are tales and there are sure to be more, both truth and fiction, about the escapades of the Blackhawks with the Cup. But our boys would have to go to great lengths to equal the many years of debauchery and defilement the Cup has experienced.

It has had every known liquid inside of it -- we'll just leave it at that -- plus dogs and at least one horse have eaten from it; It has been used as a receptacle for raw oysters, gum and ashes (though none human that we know of); and it has been at the bottom of both Mario Lemieux's and Patrick Roy's swimming pools.

(Note to future Cup drinkers: You'd be better off drinking directly from Lake Erie.)

We all know about Mark Messier bringing it to a strip club, where it reportedly was featured in the stage show. Shortly thereafter, no coincidence, chaperones were employed to babysit. The Cup, that is.

After the airport scene Tuesday, Bolt and his counterpart Howie Borrow of the Hockey Hall of Fame fought brutal rush-hour traffic as they headed to the homes of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Seabrook wanted to get a picture with his two dogs and the Cup. Come on, how sweet is that?

Stanley Cup
The Blackhawks, Cubs and White Sox pose with the Stanley Cup at Wrigley Field.

Each player gets a chance to have the Cup to themselves for a day (after the NHL draft, and hopefully before July 1, Bolt said). Marian Hossa plans to take it to Slovakia and Kris Versteeg, who is taking the Cup to Calgary, Alberta, have both said their plans include playing street hockey with neighborhood kids and buddies with the Cup as the prize. Versteeg said he also wants it by himself in a room, just to stare and reflect.

Still, Bolt will be there, keeping an eye on his charge, getting it home in time for its midnight curfew and making sure nothing too out of hand or gross occurs.

"Obviously when alcohol is involved, it gets a little trickier," he said. "But once you explain it to the guys, they understand. This is the trophy they have worked their entire lives trying to win. They have respect for it. I'll say, 'Hey guys, take it easy or I have to take it out of here.' They figure it out in the morning and say, 'Hey, sorry, I should have been smarter.'"

Bolt swears he cleans the Cup every day.

"I wash it. Really," he said. "I literally put it into the shower so it's nice and clean and pristine."

Bolt spoke to Bobby Hull before the Cup's trip to Wrigley Field on Sunday night, and Hull told him that after the 1961 Hawks win, he never got to drink from it and took maybe two pictures with it.

The Cup is a phenomenon to be sure, explained in large part by the fact that it is the only trophy in a major sport that gets passed from champion to champion. Can you imagine how many little flags would snap off if they tried that with the World Series trophy? Would anyone really care to cart around the Larry O'Brien trophy?

No, in hockey, the Cup is the thing.

"It's the biggest celebrity we have, and it's an inanimate object," Bolt said. "We have incredible ambassadors in the game, like Kane and [Jonathan] Toews, Lemieux, [Joe] Sakic, [Steve] Yzerman, [Wayne] Gretzky, but nothing is more popular than the Stanley Cup, and those guys are starstruck with the Cup, too."

Other celebrities are starstruck as well. Bolt described Chris Chelios' Malibu party (after he won with Detroit), when Tom Hanks and Sylvester Stallone crashed the party to get pictures with the Cup for their Facebook pages.

Lou Piniella has probably touched the Stanley Cup more than anyone but Scotty Bowman; he's had brushes with the trophy in Tampa and Seattle (during an ABC promotional stop), Bolt said. Piniella may have also glimpsed at it during the Islanders' reign in the early '80s, which coincided with his Yankees days.

"It's a magnet," Bolt said.

And if it hasn't stuck to you yet, well then, Mike really is doing a great job of washing it.

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.