There’s nothing like seeing the captain of the winning team take the Stanley Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman and raise it to the heavens.
It’s a look of pure joy. It’s a great moment.
The trail of the Cup from that moment forward becomes the stuff of folklore. Sometimes it’s the alternate captains next. Last season, Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog handed it to Erik Johnson, the longest-tenured player on the team. That’s kind of the thing in Colorado. In 2001, captain Joe Sakic didn’t lift the Cup, but handed it to 22-year veteran defenceman Ray Bourque. In 2018, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin gave it to longtime linemate Nicklas Backstrom. The trail of the Cup is the tale of the team.
Turns out, this is something of a Canadian thing. Like the Grey Cup, it’s the players who get the championship trophy first. (European soccer does it, too, or so I’m told.)
As it should be. They won it. Fans have followed them along all season. They want to see their favourite player with that smile on his face.
Which brings us to Bill Foley, owner of the Vegas Golden Knights. Hockey Night In Canada’s Ron MacLean wondered if Foley — one of the most influential owners in hockey — might get the Cup first from Bettman’s hands, defying hockey’s tradition, but joining the likes of the NFL, NBA and MLB where the owner is first to celebrate.
Who wants to see an owner be first to hoist the Cup? It would be a bit of an emotional comedown.
Foley’s a terrific owner, a wonderful character, and seems to be good for the game. He’s accessible. His players love him. He predicted a Cup win by the Golden Knights in six years and his team seems bang-on to make that come true. But he can have his moment with the Cup later.
Let’s hope MacLean was just musing (hey, who doesn’t like to muse?). Let’s keep this particular tradition going.
Let the players hoist the Cup first.
Got a question? Email me at [email protected] and I’ll answer it in the next Mailbag. It’s Tuesday Museday. Now to the Seven Playoff Musings.
1. It’s worth noting the top pick of the 2014 NHL draft is in the final for the first time: Aaron Ekblad (not to mention second overall Sam Reinhart and fourth overall Sam Bennett). This follows 2013’s top pick Nathan MacKinnon winning the 2022 final. Can Connor McDavid (2015) be far behind? Or Auston Matthews (2016)? Let’s hope not.
2. So Connor Bedard eventually then? I’ll do more draft musings closer to the draft, but have this little tidbit from Buffalo and the NHL combine. Lots of media types asked Adam Fantilli what it was like to play with Bedard. Very few asked Bedard what it’s like to play with Fantilli. Fantilli handled it with grace.
3. It’s not a straight line from the top of the draft to the Stanley Cup. None of the top 10 players from the 2012 draft (topped by Nail Yakupov) have made it to the final. Meanwhile, the top five from the 2008 draft have all won the Cup, some multiple times (Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo, Luke Schenn).
4. Sometime between the handing over of the Stanley Cup and the coronation of Bedard as the first overall pick, Bettman is expected to deal with some heavy issues. Notably the Montreal Canadiens will have a meeting with the commissioner over the future of Logan Mailloux of the London Knights. Bettman will also deal with former Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and manager Stan Bowman.
5. There’s also the matter of the report into members of the Team Canada’s 2018 world junior team. The league is expected to release its findings over the summer. Until it does, it might clog up trades. Carter Hart, for example, was the goalie on that team. GMs are likely to wait and see before making deals for any player from that team.
6. Sometimes new GMs find comfort in bringing with them people they know. Thus Shane Doan joins his good buddy Brad Treliving in Toronto. Wonder if Treliving would like to bring Matthew Phillips with him. Treliving drafted Phillips in the sixth round in 2016. The five-foot-seven centre is an unrestricted free agent at 25, but scored 36 goals with the AHL Calgary Wranglers last year.
7. On that note, not sure what the market for Milan Lucic would be. The 35-year-old wants to keep playing, but if he does it would be for a huge pay cut. Finishing his career in Boston sounds like the right call. But maybe Treliving wants Lucic’s toughness.
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