There is something about the Stanley Cup that shakes grown men to their core. This of course can be both exhilarating and devastating, as in life, or any other sport. But, being a fan of every other sport at one time or another, I have never seen men as genuinely emotional as I do when they win the Stanley Cup.
The first Stanley Cup Finals I consciously followed was the ’89 Calgary/Montréal series. I was intrigued because the Olympics were in Calgary the year before, so I kept my eye on the Flames. Then, the Flames won, and I thought it was cool that the host city’s team had won the championship. I now seemed to like the Calgary Flames…it was as simple as that, not much goes into an 11-year-old’s decisions. Meanwhile at home, the Penguins had begun to pull themselves from obscurity, which was winning the NHL a little recognition in baseball and football soaked Western PA. So, I now had my eye on two teams. Then came 1991, the year that sold me on hockey. It began with a goal that would live on in my memory to this day, when Theo Fluery scored in game 6 against Edmonton and slid across nearly 200 feet of ice on his knees. I had never seen anything like it, and frankly, still haven’t. But the Flames would be knocked out of the first round during the next game, so out went the Flames (horrible pun). So, I turned my attention to the much easier to follow, local Pens. During this time, I have to admit, I guilted myself harshly and often for neglecting such a wonderful team. Once I was really into the sport, I just couldn’t get over it all. The adversity one faced, as well as skill and overall toughness they had to posses was truly admirable. Mario kept scoring unbelievable goals, especially Game 2 of the Finals when he went net to net against Casey. The games even had Hollywood-esk villain/hero scenarios when Ulf cheaply took out Cam’s knee in the Boston series. When all of the theatrics were said and done, an entire city finally became hockey fans…as did a 13-year-old boy. I saw 6’ 5” Mario hoist the Cup higher than it has ever been raised before (as a friend so fondly puts it), and I didn’t know whom I liked better, Mario, or the Cup. Now all Pittsburgh sports owned a championship! I ran outside to tell me Dad this monumental news. I interrupted his conversation, and told him all about it. Unimpressed, and annoyed because of the interruption, he unenthusiastically said “Good for them”. This is the story of my life…I think everyone is just as enthusiastic as I am about the stuff that I like. But, in hindsight, I don’t blame him. He’s from Cleveland. He probably thought I was putting him down with all that “Championship” talk.
Fast forward to this year, 2011, 20 years after I was formally introduced to Lord Stanley. This is also the year that I would cheat on my Penguins. But hey, I had to…this Bruins team had everything I look for in a hockey team…determination, perseverance, guts, and a cast of characters, with tons of talent. I just couldn’t help myself. The last time I was so surprisingly taken was when I saw Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation. She had my attention immediately, and for a brief period, made me forget Jack Bauer’s daughter. Plus, after the roller coaster season the Pens had, I was subconsciously drifting towards something so I didn’t have to end the season of my favorite sport early. Enter: Mark Recchi, Tim Tomas, Brad Marchand, Shawn Thornton, Johnny Boychuck, and Zdeno Chara. I had made designs for several of these guys, and I’m proud to say 3 of them own their tees. It’s definitely a thrill to have someone you respect own something that you made with your own hands.
When I saw the Pens win game 7 in Detroit, I thought that was going to be as excited as I could get as a hockey fan, but this year rivaled that. Seeing how the B’s would handle and simply grit out the playoffs is exactly what a small town kid who’s taken his beatings wants to see out of people. I was so enamored with that team, I find it hard to put into words. I realized that I could be pleased with the Pens in ’09, and the B’s in ’10, because they were two different teams, in two different scenarios, and where both made up with my kind of guys. But, maybe that’s how I rationalized my infidelity. Ahh…I don’t know, to hell with it! How can you be a fan of this sport, and not love what you saw the Bruins do in April, May, and June. Can’t a guy be a hockey Polygamist for Christ’s sake? (Do I get hell points for pairing those words?)
One thing that I’m not confused about is that Zdeno Chara is one of the scariest hockey players I have ever come across. Physically imposing in stature, conditioning, skill, and strength, he has most people intimidated even when he isn’t shooting 106 MPH slap shots. Just looking at that menacing, joyless gaze during games is tough enough for me. That’s what makes this picture, and shirt, so special. Look at Big Z; he was just handed the Stanley Cup seconds ago, and is now raising it 7 feet from the ice, officially higher than it’s ever been before. He’s screaming like a joyfully crazed, teary-eyed Wookie, and his expression can be equated to a child celebrating their first 10 Christmas’s all at once.
Seeing Chara and Recchi hoist that Cup…I was immediately taken back to when I was 13. You are actually seeing a person in the midst of one of the best moments of their life. They are humbled by that trophy, and in that moment, are truly happy. No other sport does that for me. Just like my favorite commercial says, “No Words”.
* This design is printed on Anvil ring spun cotton tees. These tees are incredibly soft, comfortable, and flexible. They have a sliming cut, but not enough that it throws off the sizing. Bottom line, these tees will be among your go-to favorite tees.
For more detailed information, including sizing, check them out at Anvils website: