Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

In Conversation with... Phil Pritchard

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Phil Pritchard may be the curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the vice-president of its resource centre, but that's not his biggest claim to fame. He's perhaps best-known as the Keeper of the Cup, one of the select few who accompany the Stanley Cup when it leaves the Hall of Fame and goes out into the world.

Since 1988, Pritchard has accompanied the Cup on its yearly Canadian tour as well as visits around the globe. When he's out, he's in charge of security, public relations and even cleaning the Cup. He spoke with Free Press reporter Oliver Sachgau.

FP: What goes into taking the Cup on the road?

Pritchard: The team that wins it gets 100 days with the Stanley Cup. From the day they win it basically to their home opener, they've got the opportunity to drive around to the guys' hometowns -- the players, the managers, the coaches -- and celebrate their championship. In doing that, geography is a huge part of it, management is a huge part of it. Travel schedule is a huge part of it, and that's where we come in behind the scenes, working with the team, the National Hockey League, the player and his family, to again make sure their day is the best it can be because arguably it's one of the biggest days in their professional life. Winning the Cup is huge, but bringing it back to the people who made them who they are is equally important.

FP: How do you make sure the Cup is always shining and clean?

Pritchard: Every day, when we're on the road, whoever the Cup-keeper is, we start the day off by cleaning it. Often we're starting that day in a hotel, so we're using a soft detergent and warm water and a towel and basically we're getting all the fingerprints off it so it has that shine and that gleam that makes it stand out when it shows up at an event. Twice a year, we take it to get professionally done. One of those is when it gets engraved, and it goes through a full cleaning. Obviously before the finals is the other one.

When Sidney Crosby won the Cup (in 2009) and brought it up to Cole Harbour, N.S., when we showed up at his house, he asked us how we go through a full day and we told him we start off by cleaning the Cup. He thought it was great and wanted to do it. So he actually cleaned the Cup before the day got started. We gave him some soft detergent, the hose from the side of his house, and a towel and away he went. Some other guys have done it since, but he wanted to experience the whole thing. As good of a hockey player he is, he's as good of a fan.

FP: Does seeing the Cup every day make it less exciting for you?

Pritchard: Do I find it mundane? No, never. I love getting up in the morning and seeing what the day brings. I love the game of hockey, I play the game of hockey, I read about the game of hockey and I work in hockey. So although it sounds like it's hockey, hockey, hockey all the time, it's never boring. It's the greatest sport in the world and I love being a small part of it.

FP; Your job also involves security for the Cup. How often do you have to take care of overzealous fans?

Pritchard: What's amazing I think is hockey fans are very loyal, very traditional and most of all, very respectful to the game. So they understand what the Cup is, what it represents, and the tradition... behind it. So very rarely do we have an issue on our hands. Probably the biggest thing is everybody wants to pick it up. But they do understand that you have to win it to pick it up. Every now and then there's the odd guy, doesn't matter, he didn't win it, he still wants to lift it over his head, because you look at that moment when someone hoists it over his head, it's as good as there is in sports. Most people will realize 'Hey, I don't deserve to hoist it over my head. I never won it, and there's a lot of players in the NHL that have never had that chance.'

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2013 ??65533

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