They hoisted, they hugged they usually kissed the Stanley Cup — then they stuffed it with Champagne and gulped it empty once more.

Quickly, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s gamers will see their names stamped for posterity within the silver of hockey’s most cherished trophy, however final week their fast precedence was doing what champions get to do: maintain the Cup shut, whether or not or not your season and your planet have been disordered by a pandemic.

The N.H.L. breathed a company sigh of reduction when the Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars to say the Cup on Sept. 28, making it the primary main North American skilled sports activities league to finish its season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, following the success of the summer time’s emergency experiment, the league and its champions face a brand new quandary: How does a crew safely fulfill all of the rights — and rites — that include profitable a championship?

Since 1995, every Cup-winning participant, coach and coach has been granted a day to host the Stanley Cup in his hometown. Final 12 months, when the St. Louis Blues received, that endeavor stored Phil Pritchard, a Hockey Corridor of Fame vice chairman often known as the keeper of the Cup, and his employees on the transfer for greater than 100 days. Alongside the best way, they visited Canadian cities referred to as Calahoo and Port Hood together with Helsinki, Finland, and Novosibrisk, Russia.

Lightning wing Pat Maroon is aware of the drill. Having received the Cup final 12 months, too, as a member of the Blues, he’s simply the third participant within the enlargement period to have received championships in consecutive seasons with completely different groups. Maroon, a local of St. Louis, spent his day with the Cup in July 2019 at residence earlier than visiting a mall the place he had performed in-line hockey as a youth, and internet hosting a lunch get together, the place the Cup was full of toasted ravioli.

Simply when he would possibly get to reprise that have stays to be seen. Final Wednesday, the Lightning shared the Cup with their followers by means of the Stanley Cup’s first boat parade, alongside the Hillsborough River. Later, the crew held a rally for followers at Raymond James Stadium, residence of the N.F.L.’s Buccaneers, with capability restricted. The not-entirely-masked crowd of simply over 11,000 was unfold out throughout a stadium that may accommodate almost 66,000.

Plans for additional Stanley Cup pilgrimages are nonetheless in flux. A possible itinerary for every day visits could be one other worldwide one: Whereas 14 of the Lightning’s gamers are Canadian and one other six American, the roster additionally consists of 4 Russians, two Czechs, a Swede and a Slovak.

Will Pritchard be steering the Cup to Plano, Texas (Blake Coleman), Moscow (Nikita Kucherov), or Ornskoldsvik, Sweden (Victor Hedman)? Will a participant convert the Cup into a conventional Russian samovar (because the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin did in 2017), feed Kentucky Derby-winning horses from it (because the Rangers’ Eddie Olczyk in 1994) or organize to christen a child (the Cup has performed its half in no less than three baptisms)? Nobody’s committing to something fairly but.

Pritchard stated on Monday that the league was consulting with the Lightning within the hopes of arranging some sort of “celebration tour.”

“In fact, being very involved about all people’s well being and security, it’s an ongoing dialogue,” he stated.

No matter occurs, alternatives for touching and ingesting from the Cup, he emphasised, can be restricted. “At the moment we’re staying in Tampa,” he stated.

After final week’s public occasions, the Cup spent the weekend on Tampa-area golf programs with Lightning gamers and at a celebration for the crew’s coaches. On Sunday, it accompanied captain Steven Stamkos and different gamers to Raymond James Stadium to watch the Buccaneers defeat the Los Angeles Chargers.

An Englishman, Lord Stanley of Preston, donated the unique Cup in 1892, when he was serving as governor-general of Canada. It was a problem trophy when it was first awarded the next winter, 24 years earlier than the founding of the N.H.L.

Celebratory routines quickly settled into place. A crowd of 30,000 thronged the streets of Montreal in 1902 to fete the native AAA crew. It’s unlikely that they had been pioneers in quaffing from the Cup, however they do appear to have been the primary to make the information in doing so, filling it with wine aboard a practice headed residence and treating pals to a sip.

Different adventures have seen the Cup sunken in swimming swimming pools, forgotten by the facet of a Montreal road, stolen and held for ransom. Nevertheless it in all probability wasn’t kicked onto a frozen canal.

When the flu pandemic put a cease to the 1919 finals earlier than a winner may very well be determined, the Stanley Cup appeared to have remained safely ensconced in Montreal.

In mid-August of this 12 months, issues about how the champions would rejoice because the coronavirus continued to unfold did occupy the eye of league officers, a number of of whom steered that some kind of strictures is perhaps prudent when the time got here handy over the Cup. A month later, none had been on apparent show because the Lightning left Edmonton, Alberta, and headed residence to share their victory with their followers.

“How does one do socially distant parades??” Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady tweeted final Tuesday in congratulating the Lightning. The crew’s reply, that Wednesday, was to take to the Hillsborough River on a day when Florida reported no less than 174 new coronavirus deaths and 1,948 new instances.

Metropolis and Lightning officers emphasised the care with which the revelry was organized.

“To honor our crew and the Stanley Cup’s first journey again to Tampa Bay in 16 years, we labored diligently with the Metropolis of Tampa, Hillsborough County and others to create socially distant, open air celebrations, unfold out over two miles on the Tampa Riverwalk and at a lower than 20% of capability at Raymond James Stadium,” the Lightning stated in an announcement.

“Clearly,” Mayor Jane Castor stated, “we needed to do every part that we may to make the celebrations secure, however nonetheless permit the neighborhood to take part in such an unbelievable event.”

As seen on social media, a few of the night’s occasions appeared as if from one other 12 months, with followers as desperate to high-five and huddle for selfies with the champions as some gamers accommodated them. And it wasn’t laborious to search out footage of followers lining as much as drink from the Cup.

Broadcast from one other, more healthy time, it might need resembled good, raucous enjoyable; in a 2020 context, it had the look of a possible super-spreader occasion. A metropolis spokeswoman stated officers hadn’t seen an uptick related to the occasion but additionally famous that “we calculate two weeks at a time.”

“We’re doing our greatest to observe all that,” Pritchard stated on Oct. 1, the day after the parade.

Because the keeper of the Cup, Pritchard is in his thirty second 12 months of by no means being too removed from the trophy. From Tampa, he acknowledged the challenges of reconciling the most effective health-and-safety practices with the close-quarters ebullience inherent in Cup celebrations.

This 12 months, greater than ever, he’s additionally the cleaner of the Cup, wiping it down as many as 4 occasions a day with a three-part remedy of heat water adopted by a smooth detergent answer and medical disinfectant to take care of fingerprints and pathogens.

Ultimately, as he does annually, Pritchard will accompany the Cup to Montreal, the place the engraver Louise St. Jacques will diligently use a letter stamp to hammer the names of the brand new champions into the silver band of the Cup’s physique.

That’s often an autumn appointment. Earlier than that, a typical hockey low season could be spent on the street going metropolis to metropolis with the Cup. That’s unsure now.

Final week, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was already vowing that he would take the Cup residence to New Rochelle, N.Y., a New York Metropolis suburb, as quickly as attainable.

“For sure, we’re very happy with Kevin,” Mayor Noam Bramson of New Rochelle stated in an e-mail, including that town nonetheless hadn’t thought-about simply how an official recognition is perhaps realized. “Choices,” he famous, “are severely constrained by COVID.”




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