Okay, I didn’t actually win the thing because I have no idea how to play hockey, but we did have lunch together one day long ago.
It wasn’t the original, built in 1892, because that one lives in a vault at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. This particular version – the ‘presentation trophy’ – was created in 1963, which is the one you see players waving around after a championship match. It makes public appearances at hockey games, sports shows and the occasional television drama, which is when I crossed paths with it.
I’m not a hockey fan, which doesn’t mean I have anything against it, I just never got into it. I hear it’s exciting. So my lunch date with the presentation version of The Stanley Cup was entirely happenstance, I hadn’t planned on it at all.
The original — the one that lives up there in Toronto – was thunk up by Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, Lord Stanley of Preston and son of the 14th Earl of Derby, when he was appointed Canada’s governor general well over 125 years ago.
I really like titles of that kind, and I kind of wish I had one. If I did, I guess I would be ‘Sir David William Rhodes, Lord Rhodes of the Tenderloin and son of the 10,387th Dock-worker of the Port of Stockton.’
Sir Stanley saw a few hockey games and liked them so much, he had a trophy made. Like I said, must be an exciting game.
In 1963, the president of the NHL, Clarence Campbell, who didn’t have a fancy title AT ALL, decided to no longer take chances on that rickety ol’ cup being passed around by macho hockey players. They seem to have great fun slamming each other into Plexiglas at high speed, so he stuck it in that vault room and had a replica made up, which is the one I hung out with one day.
When I was a ‘background actor,’ which is a fancy term for ‘extra’ in Hollywood, I was being sent all over town almost daily to film and TV shoots, on everything at major studio lots like Warner Brothers in Burbank, to temporary locations set up just for a day shoot.
I was booked for one day on “Arli$$,” an HBO show about a sports agent. I was to be a fellow sports agent, standing in a hallway talking to someone as the principal actors walked by. I never said ‘extra’ work was glamorous.
This is proof that extras are kind of like actors, except they aren’t required to actually ‘act’ in a scene and often get in trouble if they try to do so. But I can only guess that a sports agent represents major athletes just like a Hollywood agent gets jobs for their acting clientelle, right?
Someday I’ll actually watch the movie “Jerry Maquire.”
They filmed ‘Arli$$’ at a small studio lot somewhere in Glendale that I wasn’t aware existed until I arrived that morning. When I got booked on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” around that time, it was the same type of thing. ‘Buffy’ filmed at a tiny Santa Monica lot with a handful of sound stages and a mock town set that was “Sunnydale.”
This particular episode of Arli$$ was about hockey and I’d heard The Stanley Cup was to make an appearance.
We broke for lunch and everyone was herded into a sound stage they weren’t using for filming, so it had been set-up for catering. Everyone from the principal actors, day-players (actors booked just for that episode), crew and extras sat together at various tables around the place, and as is human nature, everyone formed cliques and had lunch with the co-workers they knew.
I didn’t know anyone at this particular shoot, even fellow extras, so I grabbed a lonely spot at a distant, corner table, just me, my tray of lunch and a book. It was always a good idea to bring reading material to TV shoots, because extras never had a script to study or a character to work on, but there was always a lot of down time before being called to set.
My isolation didn’t last long. About five minutes into it, applause broke out and I turned to see a couple of guys and a fully armed security dude walk in carrying this trophy. All of the attention in the room, about 150 people, turned to watch.
The security guy said, “Where would you like this?” The guy in charge looked around and spotted my table. I was the only one who wasn’t visiting with people, so there was plenty of room over in my little corner.
“Put it over there!”
They did, and in about 30 seconds I had 150 new friends because they all had to gather ’round for a close-up view of the most famous thing in hockey, Wayne Gretzky aside. He wasn’t there.
I couldn’t take any more elbowing in my back and people leaning over my shoulder, so after a very short amount of time I bailed on The Stanley Cup, leaving it heartbroken and sobbing. I tried to assure it that it was all on me, ‘not you,’ but that didn’t help. I last saw it binging on Ben and Jerry’s as it took in an entire season of Sex In The City.
It finally stopped texting me about a month later.
I kind of wish I was more of a hockey fan so that I could appreciate the wonder of it all, but I’ve never really been much on sports of any kind. Doctors determined when I was young that I was born without the ‘sports gene,’ which is found in approximately 9.8 out of 10 straight males in the world.
Dorian even gave me a hard time when I told her about the subject of this post, saying, “Shouldn’t you post that around the time of the NHL playoffs when interest in that cup would be greater?’ She had a good point, so I asked her when the playoffs happen and she didn’t know, so I looked it up.
APRIL, I guess. So I’m just getting a jump on this by about three months.
I once guarded the America’s Cup — the big sailing trophy — in 1988 when I worked at The San Diego Yacht Club. Being more into sailing than hockey, I actually knew something about that trophy, which is older than the Stanley Cup.
So, TWICE I’ve had lunch with famous sports trophies, not knowing much about either of them at the time. I know that’s kind of like dating Scarlett Johannson and saying, “Oh, are you in a movie?”
A thorough history of The Stanley Cup can be found at The NHL SITE, and it’s so interesting I didn’t even nod off or anything.
The entire run of Arli$$ can be found at THE HBO SITE, including the episode The Stanley Cup appears in, along with me, I think, but I never saw it. One must be an HBO customer to stream their shows, of course.
If you’re new around here and you’re wondering who ‘Dorian’ is, mentioned a few paragraphs up, go to my ABOUT DAVE page to find out.
Toronto trophy room photo of the original Stanley Cup by RasputinAXP.