Stories from the Keeper of the Cup

Phil Pritchard travels with hockey’s top trophy

Wayne Gretzky's stick
Phil Pritchard
Business Accounting
Vice President, Curator, Hockey Hall of Fame, Keeper of the Cup

On a snowy November evening, over 60 Sheridan alumni and friends got the rare chance to get up close and personal with some of hockey’s most iconic trophies and legendary artifacts.   Visiting the D.K. (Doc) Seaman Resource Centre, they were the guests of Phil Pritchard, a 1984 graduate of Sheridan’s business accounting program, who serves today as Curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame and Keeper of the Cup. Over the course of the evening, Pritchard treated his guests to some tales with the cup, before opening up the Hall of Fame archives for guided tours.

If you’ve ever watched an NHL team win the Stanley Cup, chances are that you’ve seen Pritchard.  He’s the person who has the enviable task of bringing the cup onto the ice and subsequently escorting this highly revered trophy on its 24 hour long visits with each member of the championship team.

Whether the day’s adventures take him to victory parades in some of North America’s largest cities, theme parks, mountain tops, or visits to local bars and restaurants, the cup starts every day “the same way as you and I do – with a shower,” says Pritchard.  “It’s an important step to clean any residual acids that may be left from people’s fingerprints, which can damage the silver,” he explains.

"The cup has gone for dog sled, helicopter, sea doo and go-kart rides."

Pritchard has snapped Stanley Cup selfies in some pretty great places, helping to document the cup’s travels and the stories that unfold along the way.  The cup has been to the United Nations, London Bridge, and Mount Rushmore.  It’s gone for dog sled, helicopter, sea doo and go-kart rides.  It posed with the RCMP roll call in Ottawa, to recreate the picture that used to appear on the back of the Canadian $50 bill, featuring Mounties on their horses – except this time, with the cup photobombed in.  And it has even stopped in for a visit with Lord Stanley’s great grandson in England, who according to Pritchard “isn’t a big hockey fan, but certainly understands the significance of the cup to Canadians.”

phil with trophy
Pritchard with the Vezina Trophy

According to Pritchard, the cup travels upwards of 310 days per year, helping to share hockey history with as many people as possible.  While the scheduled visits are always a pleasure, sometimes it’s the unexpected glitches that make the stories truly memorable.

Pritchard recounts the challenge of traveling with the cup after the Anaheim Ducks won the playoffs in 2007.  “There weren’t many European players on the team that year,” says Pritchard.  “We had to take the cup from Finland, after our visit with Teemu Selanne, to Russia for its day with Ilya Bryzgalov.  But flights to Somara, Russia only happen every other day, and that’s with a transfer through Frankfurt, Germany.  What it meant was that Selanne ended up with the cup for almost 70 hours.”

"Sometimes it’s the unexpected glitches that make the stories truly memorable."

Luca Torresan
Luca Torresan (Business Transportation, 1993) and his son with the Hart Memorial Trophy

“Selanne’s so popular, he might as well be the country’s Prime Minister,” jokes Pritchard. “We took the cup for a ride on the ocean in his 75 foot captain cruiser.  It doesn’t get dark until well past 2 a.m. in Finland at that time of year.  All his friends were jumping in and out of the ocean. They also took the cup into a sauna – using it to pour water on the rocks.  The great thing about Selanne is that he invited all the buddies who he played hockey with when he was 10 or 11 years old for his day with the cup.”

Although Pritchard says that the cup has never been dropped on his watch, it did get a permanent dent as a result of a visit to Princeton so that George Parros, who also won the cup with the Anaheim Ducks, could pose with it on campus for a picture to be used in an alumni publication. “It wasn’t Parros’ fault,” recalls Pritchard.  “He was standing on a stage, with the cup over his head and the photographer kept telling him to back up.  Parros ended up falling off the stage. He managed to get his balance, but the cup knocked into a table nearby and now it has a dent that we can’t get out.”

Sheridan Soccer team
Members of the Sheridan Bruins Men’s Soccer Team, 2014 National Champions, outside the Hockey Hall of Fame Archives.

Another big part of Pritchard’s job is working with players and leagues around the world to help collect and curate the memorabilia that fills 75,000 square feet at the Hockey Hall of Fame.  What doesn’t fit there is stored in an 18,000 square foot climate and humidity controlled archives. “Each artifact that we receive is frozen and thawed twice to make sure we don’t inadvertently introduce any harmful critters,” explains Craig Campbell, Manager of the Resource Centre and Archives.  “These things are especially problematic when we receive items that contain natural fibres like jerseys or wooden hockey sticks.”

In addition to housing iconic trophies like the Vezina and the Hart, the archives also contain over 2 million original images – on negatives, film reels and videos – which have been copyrighted.  A staff of five people is responsible for digitizing and cataloging it all.  Revenues that are generated from licensing the images provide much needed funds to keep the Hall of Fame going.

By sharing his stories, taking the cup to the far reaches of Canada and the world, and always thinking up the next great display for the Hall of Fame, Pritchard is doing his part to preserve and share the sport’s rich history.  “I have the pleasure of working with hockey every day and actually getting paid to do it,” he says.  “It makes me the luckiest guy in the world.”

Read more about Pritchard and his adventures with the cup in Sheridan’s blog curiosities.