Brandon Vanbezooyen wanted to lick the Stanley Cup.
He’d waited hours Sunday to see one of the most fabled trophies in all of sport. It’s the trophy bestowed on hockey’s top team and the most intimate gesture the avid fan could think of was to lick it.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Vanbezooyen, 10, of Sebastopol said. Not the licking, just the being in the presence of the cup. “I just really, really like” hockey.
In the end, Vanbezooyen went for a kiss, not a lick.
If Vanbezooyen sounds a little fanatical, he was not alone Sunday. In fact, he was among his people.
Hundreds of people turned up at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena Sunday to be in the presence of the Stanley Cup. The same cup that the Los Angeles Kings hoisted above their heads in June, the cup that went jet-skiing with ace Sidney Crosby when his Penguins won the crown, the trophy that has been in the space shuttle, that has been to Siberia and the bottom of a pool. The trophy has served alternately as a giant cereal bowl, ice cream dish, beer mug and who knows what else — that was the cup that sat on Snoopy’s Home Ice as fan after fan got their 30 seconds of alone time with it.
“The whole experience,” said Joanna Buss of Vacaville. “This is the best you can get in hockey.”
The NHL tradition is this: the team that wins the Stanley Cup gets about 100 days with the 130-year-old trophy in which players, managers, staffers get a day a piece to do what they want with it. Within reason of course.
For some, that’s eating cereal out of it. For other’s, it’s Christening babies in the silver bowl that sits atop the base. For Los Angeles Kings president Dean Lombardi, a part-time resident of Sonoma, it meant bringing it to Sonoma County for a few private fundraisers and family events but also setting it on a table and letting hockey fans bask in its glow.
Mike Bolt has seen it thousands of times. Bolt is one of four “keepers of the cup.”
That’s his job title. He works for the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and travels 250 days a year with the cup, taking it to the airport, delivering it from event to event, making sure tradition is followed and rarely letting the thing out of his sight.
I was asking Bolt about his less-than-usual job when he is interrupted.
“Would you be willing to stop for a picture with the crate?” a man asks.
Bolt obliges as if it’s the most normal request in the world. The handler with the crate. Not even the trophy, just the big trunk that carries the thing.
“The Stanley Cup is a magnet,” he says, trying to explain. “It’s an emotional thing.”
It’s also kinda gross.
All those people touching, rubbing . . . kissing on it? Hour after hour, day after day?
There is a reason why the keepers of the cup wear gloves.
“We clean it every day. The best way is in the shower or use a garden hose with soap and water,” Bolt said. “After a two-to-three-hour public appearance, the last thing I’d want to do is kiss it.”