My Day With The Stanley Cup

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My first clue that the National Hockey League is not a well-run organization came when they offered to give me the Stanley Cup for a day. The 108-year-old trophy, when not in the Hall of Fame in Toronto, is given to each player of the championship team for 24 hours. The only other journalist ever given the Cup was Rick Reilly of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, who took it to a kids' hockey game, an old-age home and a hospital filled with sick children. The only way I was going to a hospital was if Pam Anderson was there recuperating from more breast enlargement surgery.

The Cup arrived at my office chaperoned by curator Phil Pritchard, who has been traveling 110 days a year with the Cup for the past 13 years, thereby spending too many nights sleeping on hockey players' couches instead of with his wife. Phil gave me white mime gloves so I could experience the honor of lugging the 3-ft., 35-lb. trophy around for the day. Next week I'm painting Phil's picket fence.

Our first half hour was spent in my office as every member of TIME's tech department had his picture taken with the cup. Then I put it in its case and wheeled it to 48th Street Pawnbrokers, where owner Linda Tillman sized it up. Linda didn't know much about hockey, but she knew the price of silver. She appraised it at $250 and offered us a loan for half that before three businessmen spotted it and came rushing in. Seeing publicity opportunities, Linda raised her bid to $1,000. "No pawnshop pays that much," she assured me.

Seeing the power of the Cup, I decided to use it to my advantage. Wanting to impress someone, but having no idea who my boss is, I headed to Ted Turner's office, who may or may not own my company. His secretary claimed he was out of the country, which I'm pretty sure was not metaphorical.

So I returned to my office, where Phil had to make some phone calls. I organized a Foosball tournament in which the winner would get a half hour with the Cup. Two guys from the art department, Ed Gabel and D.W. Pine, took me on. Unfortunately, my usual partner was home sick, so I grabbed Max Smith, a designer who has never played before, is losing his eyesight and is really named Ken. While Ed and D.W. were running up and down the halls with the Cup, I realized I hadn't seen Phil in some time. I considered etching my name into the Cup but wasn't sure if my American Express covered that.

At 1 p.m. Phil and I headed to the Grill Room at the Four Seasons, the hardest place in Manhattan to get a table for lunch. I approached Julian Niccolini, the managing partner, and said, "I don't have a reservation, but I do have the Stanley Cup." Julian led us to a table and placed the Cup on it. By the end of the meal, nearly every diner had cell-phoned his assistant to bring a camera so he could get a picture with it. When we asked for a check, Julian refused our money. Phil and I belched the satisfied belches of men who have just bummed a meal off a century's worth of accomplishments by toothless, battered professional athletes.