No Touchy

Thursday, June 18th, 2009, 6:00 pm

OK, I didn’t get to touch the Stanley Cup, or get my picture taken with it, or drink a Sam Adams out of it. But I got some pics and I wrote up a post at the UB blog that I’m gonna repost here, because I really don’t feel like writing another post about last night.

Oh, and last night I hit quads TWICE, booking a $70 win and erasing about 30% of my gambling losses for the trip. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually play some poker. Or, maybe not. So far I’ve worked, uh, 22 out of 22 days. Feel fine, no burnout, getting enough sleep, finally got some meds to beat back my bronchitis. Of course the idea of having an entire day off makes me want to weep with joy, but I don’t see that happening. No biggie. My shattered body and psyche will rest when I get home. Home. Home.

Anyway, about the Cup:

It’s a hockey night in Vegas. Or it WAS a hockey night in Vegas, last night in fact. The NHL Charity Shootout tournament was held yesterday and a number of current and former NHL legends were here in the Amazon Room. I took a bunch of pictures, which was difficult at times because what with the ESPN cameras orbiting the table I had to shoot through the glass that was set up around the table–you do recall me saying that they’d remodeled the Feature Table arena to give it a more appropriate feel:

They also replaced the table’s green felt with a really cool rink motif:

The tournament was conducted shootout-style, with the top 3 players at each table moving on to the final table. A few pics I managed to snag:

Current MVP (and he’ll almost certainly win the award again tonight) Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. That white fin pointed at his head was from the lens hood of the film camera, sorry about that, couldn’t angle myself over to get a better shot. Notice please that Ovechkin is wearing an All-Star baseball cap, not a Stanley Cup Champion cap. Have I mentioned before that I’m from Pittsburgh and a borderline-insane Penguins fan?

Montreal Canadiens forward-enforcer Georges Laraque. Laraque played for the Pens the previous two seasons, where he was a huge fan-favorite (literally and figuratively). One of the most feared fighters in the NHL, Laraque isn’t one of those guys who goes out and picks fights. He lets others start the fight…and then he ends it. Oftentimes two guys will agree before a faceoff to duke it out, and after the two agree to drop the gloves Laraque often says, without sarcasm, “Good luck”. Seems like the sort of guy you’d like to have at your table. Maybe at the other end of your table.

Jeremy Roenick, currently with the San Jose Sharks after having played (and played exceedingly well) for about a half-dozen other teams during his illustrious career. He was one of the more crowd-pleasing players during the tournament, and even when he was waiting for the final table to start. We were sitting on Media Row when Roenick sat down with a stack of red and green chips and was playing some young guy heads-up. It didn’t take Roenick long to lose his stack, and then he leapt up and headed back to the stage. It was remarked during the tournament that Roenick looks more like actor James Woods than James Woods does.

NBC hockey analyst (and former Penguin player, coach and announcer) Ed Olczyk. More than any other hockey personality at the event, Olczyk LOOKED like a poker player. He also won a pot playing my favorite hand, the Hammer (otherwise known as Seven-Deuce offsuit).

As the day wore on I started to get a wee bit excited, as I knew the STANLEY CUP would be arriving around 8pm and I was gonna be there when that happened. I knew the Cup was going to be included in the daily bracelet ceremony (which was pushed back from 2pm to eight) and a bit before the appointed hour I got a spot by the stage and stared down anyone who tried to infringe on my territory. Some guy tried to engage me in idiotic conversation (about how he should’ve won two bracelets already like J.C. Tran but in 2007 his aces got blah blah blah) but I looked at him in such a way that he quickly ended the conversation and scurried away with his head still on his shoulders.

And then the side door behind the stage opened and…there was the Stanley Cup, carried in by a gentleman wearing clean white gloves and escorted by a phalanx of security, Harrah’s execs, and excited gawkers. I held my ground by the stage as people saw the Cup carried up on stage and pressed close, and I squeezed off a few shots of the Holy Grail itself:

It was smaller than I expected, more nicked-up, not as shiny, and the bowl at the top was dented in a few places. And, sigh, it was more beautiful than I dreamed. Jeffrey Pollack took the microphone and told the crowd that the NHL had come to the WSOP for the day, and that included the greatest trophy (yes, he said even greater than the WSOP bracelet) in the world, the Stanley Cup.

Pollack introduced the three bracelet winners from the day before–Leo Wolpert, James Van Alstyne, and J.C. Tran, and the crowd stood as the Star-Spangled Banner was played for the three new champions:

After that Pollack introduced Gary Bettman, the NHL Commissioner (and Pollack’s brother), who returned the throngs to action by announcing “shuffle up and deal!”. And then the two Commissioners posed for a few pics with the Cup:

It’s been something of a running joke among my friends on Media Row that I’d need to be kept on a leash when the Cup arrived. I may have made some idle comments about grabbing the Cup and making a break for the door (and probably getting Tasered within five steps). During the bracelet ceremony I was about 5 feet from the Cup–all I had to do was step forward, reach out, and touch it. That’s all I wanted to do–touch the Cup. Maybe get my picture taken with it.

As the ceremony ended a guy in a Steelers sweatshirt squeezed forward to get a better look, apologizing for his shouldering by saying, “I’m from Pittsburgh, I gotta get a closer look!”. I said I was from Pittsburgh too and we did the fist-bump to celebrate the Pens victory. As the crowd started to disperse he took that step forward, reached out, and touched the Cup, as his friends snapped pictures.

The reaction wasn’t as extreme as I feared, but there was a reaction. Security moved forward, a Harrah’s person told him to knock it off, another barked an order and the man with the gloves whisked the Cup off the stage. My fellow ‘Burgher apologized and said, “I’m sorry, sir, but I HAD to touch the Cup!” That seemed to satisfy the guards, they didn’t hustle him out of the room, so maybe I could’ve gotten away with putting my fingertips on the Cup. Or, maybe I would’ve lost my media badge. It wasn’t worth the risk.

They brought the Cup onto the Final Table stage and set it on a table near where the bracelet display usually is. A few WSOP employees had their pictures taken with the Cup, but they weren’t letting just anybody (or, just anybody like me) in for a snapshot. I guess I understand–let someone like me say cheese while standing by the Cup and EVERYBODY would want to get a picture. Madness, chaos, the end of civilization would ensue.

So I just there with the other media types for a bit and just…looked at it. Funny, had the Penguins lost Game 7 the sight of the Cup would’ve made me want to barf. Instead I sighed like a lovesick teenager. I wonder if players who win WSOP bracelets feel the same way when they get their hands on it. I wonder if players who come second and don’t have a bracelet look at it and feel nauseous. And I wonder how long those feelings last. For me, I looked at the Cup from afar for about fifteen minutes, and then I remembered I hadn’t eaten in about 10 hours. It was enough to see it, take pictures of it, bask in its presence. Eventually the Stanley Cup will return home to Pittsburgh, and so will I. “I’ll catch up with you later,” I said to that glittering silver chalice, and headed for home.

Permanent link to this post.

Leave a Reply