The Stanley Cup is arguably the most recognized trophy in all of sport. Hockey fans from all over the world clamor to be near it, touch it, and take pictures with it. And for hockey fans in Dubuque and Waterloo, both Iowa-based USHL teams, they will have that very special opportunity this weekend.
Friday night, the Stanley Cup will be in Dubuque at the Mystique Community Ice Center as the Dubuque Fighting Saints and the Bloomington Thunder, a potential Eastern Conference Clark Cup matchup, face one another for the fourth and final time this season. Jordan Kuhns, the broadcasting and media relations coordinator for the Fighting Saints, says having the Stanley Cup in Dubuque is the ultimate thrill.
“It's unbelievably exciting to have the Stanley Cup here in Dubuque. To our knowledge, it's the first time it has been in this city, ever,” said Kuhns. “It's the ultimate goal of all players who have ever laced up skates to lift that Cup over their heads in triumph. We're so thrilled to have it here, and to share that excitement with our fans.”
In Dubuque on Friday night, fans will have the opportunity to have their picture taken with the Cup by a professional photographer, who will then release those pictures with free downloads via his Flickr account, according to Kuhns. He says it will be an awesome way to cap off a great night between two teams potentially heading to the Clark Cup Playoffs. Just to have it in the building will send a charge into the fans that will be there, and the game itself.
Joe Greene, vice president of sales and marketing for the Waterloo Black Hawks, shares the same sentiments as Kuhns. He and the Black Hawks will be hosting the Cup on Saturday night at Young Arena as they host the Green Bay Gamblers. Waterloo is hosting a program titled “Questions with the Keepers of the Cup.”
This pregame event will feature Phil Pritchard along with Mario Della-Savia from the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the two will host a Q&A session with fans. Fans at the event will also have the opportunity to take a picture with the Cup. Greene is very happy that the fans of Waterloo will have this tremendous opportunity, and he wants to make that moment special for every fan in attendance.
“The response was remarkable and the event is already sold out,” said Greene. “Once we wrap that program up the Stanley Cup will be moved to the main concourse where every fan in attendance will have an opportunity to get their photo taken with it. Our goal is to make sure that every person in the building can check it out. We’ve even had fans tell us that seeing the Stanley Cup is something on their bucket list and they’ve been very appreciative about us giving them the opportunity to check that off.”
Pritchard, vice president of the Resource Centre and curator at the Hockey Hall of Fame, better known by the hockey community as the “Keeper of the Cup,” will be traveling with the Cup to Dubuque on Friday night and Waterloo on Saturday night. He says hockey fans everywhere are enthralled with the Cup, whether that means fans in an NHL market or a USHL market.
“I think the great thing about the Stanley Cup, is it is the pinnacle of hockey, regardless if you live in a traditional or non-traditional market,” Pritchard said. “I think if you put on a pair of skates and grab a stick, you would like to win the Stanley Cup. It has a great history, tradition and aura about it. It seems to attract a crowd everywhere it goes. Being the oldest trophy in sport, it attracts attention.”
Kuhns has already had one personal experience with the Cup, and he is hoping to make it two on Friday night.
“I'm hoping I can take a picture with it,” Kuhns added. “I was lucky enough to see the Stanley Cup at the Flyers about ten years ago and I had my picture taken alongside Flyers legend Bobby Clarke. As a burgeoning hockey fan back then, that was the biggest deal ever. This is the ultimate prize in the hockey world. So to have it be here, in person, is just an awesome feeling.”
As for Greene, as excited as he is about the Cup coming to Waterloo, he is superstitious about his interaction with the trophy. Much like NHL players who have not been on a team that has won the Stanley Cup, he says he is satisfied with seeing the fans interact with it but would like to protect himself from future jinxes.
“This is my ninth year working in hockey at one level or another and this will be my first time seeing The Stanley Cup in person,” Greene said. “I’m personally very excited to see it but I won’t be getting my photo taken with it or touch it. I have aspirations to someday be in a position to win it as part of an NHL front office and until that day comes, I’ll steer clear.
“I’m probably just as excited to meet Phil and Mario and listen to their stories. Most importantly, everyone in our organization will take satisfaction in knowing that our fans are experiencing something very, very special.”
Pritchard looks forward to the Iowa trip with the Cup and meeting the local hockey fans that have witnessed over 35 NHL Draft picks play between Dubuque and Waterloo. It’s not uncommon for him to take trips through states like Iowa, and hopes that he will experience even more USHL markets in the future.
“Hockey fans are very passionate and loyal,” Pritchard said. “USHL fans are just the same: they are loyal to their teams and their players, and are very proud when their players move on up to the pros and hopefully one day bring the Cup home. I believe it is exactly what Ruslan Fedetenko did a few years ago with Sioux City.
“Our hope is that one day we are able to bring the Stanley Cup to fans everywhere including all the USHL cities. So far it has been great from Sioux City and Omaha to Youngstown and Green Bay. All have great fans.”
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
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