On July 28, hockey fans from near and far gathered at Ithaca High School at 9 a.m. on a rainy Saturday morning to greet a much-loved hometown hero. Los Angeles Kings captain and Ithaca native Dustin Brown was back in town and everyone was eager to see the very famous companion which was by his side — the Stanley Cup.
After winning the Stanley Cup Finals, it is tradition that every player on the team gets to spend 24 hours with the Cup. From the moment that Brown lifted the famed trophy over his head in June after the Kings beat the New Jersey Devils, it was clear that a trip to Ithaca would be in the Cup’s near future. Having the Cup in Ithaca is very special, according to Brown.
“Ithaca’s a pretty small, tight-knit community and big sports community especially with two colleges here and a lot of people interested in sports,” Brown explained. “I don’t know if there has ever been anything like this in Ithaca from someone from Ithaca. I’m being biased I’m sure, but if you want to bring a trophy to the town, that’s the trophy you want to bring.”
The Cup is no stranger to Ithaca, as it made an appearance in 1999 when former Cornell All-American Joe Nieuwendyk visited after the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup Finals. Nieuwendyk also won NHL titles in 1989 and 2003 with the Calgary Flames and New Jersey Devils, respectively. While previously in Ithaca, the Cup has made appearances at Cornell, as well as local favorites such as Dunbars and the home of the famous Pinesburger Challenge, the Glenwood Pines where Nieuwendyk celebrated his 2003 victory while playing with the Devils, according to Mark Anbinder ’89.
“When I showed up to greet Dustin Brown and the Stanley Cup at 9 a.m., I was shocked by the amount of people there already. I would guess well over a thousand,” said Albert Liao ’14, a Sun Sports staff writer. “It was a great experience for me to see Dustin Brown and the Stanley Cup and I’m sure the other people who were there feel the same way.”
Over 2,000 people gathered to see Brown and the Cup, with hopes of having their picture taken with the winning captain and one of the most recognizable trophies in the sports world.
“It’s an incredible thing to see people’s reactions when they are around the Stanley Cup,” Anbinder said. “I can’t imagine any other sports trophy getting that kind of attention. One of the things that is amazing about is it that each player on the team gets to take the Cup home with them for the day. It travels the world to all corners of the planet to see it. Hundreds of hundreds of people waited in line to see it and take a picture with it and touch the Cup.”
While not everyone was able to have their picture taken with Brown and the Cup, the captain made sure that everyone who attended was able to touch the trophy. He carried the Cup down the line of people still waiting, allowing everyone to chance to touch it at least once — if they wanted to. Many NHL players — as well as NHL hopefuls — are superstitious about touching the trophy, as they believe it is bad luck to touch it before winning it.
Brown’s thoughtful gesture did not go unnoticed by Anbinder, which he described as “a classy move.”
“It’s amazing to have that piece of history in your town,” Anbinder went on to say. “It’s really a meaningful trophy … [and] it’s really a great symbol of success. In Dustin’s case it’s incredible how he is able to be so successful with the Kings. He’s the captain and had an exceptional season. So having him bring [the Cup] home to spend time with his family and friends was terrific.”
Anbinder and Liao were not the only ones who said that they struggled to find words to describe seeing the Cup in person. Hoisting the Cup after winning the title left Brown searching for the right words to describe what he was feeling; however, the captain recalled the emotions he felt from passing the Cup to his teammates.
“What’s pretty special for the players is the tradition of one teammate passing the cup to another,” he said.
Another tradition, which many hockey fans love to ask players about is drinking out of the trophy. While many players have been spotted drinking beer out of the trophy, Brown’s young sons were photographed drinking chocolate milk. During his stay in Ithaca, Brown used the Cup as a large bowl to share frozen yogurt in with his friends and family.
Before leaving Ithaca, Brown offered advice to young athletes who have dreams of one day entering the world of professional sports — have fun. Brown played lacrosse, baseball and hockey while growing up, before eventually focusing on hockey. His advice is for aspiring athletes to play the sports they enjoy while they are younger, and focus more seriously on one sport as they grow older.