Player's 'day' means more than Game 7 victory lap

Updated: August 17, 2006, 10:45 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

No matter how powerful the dreams, they are but a collection of dust mites compared to the reality of first holding the Stanley Cup.

But perhaps the purest essence of the Cup isn't in that moment of stretching it to the rafters in the moments after the final game but in what follows -- the experience of not just holding it, but of having it, being able to do what you want with it if just for a matter of hours.

It is both the reward and the challenge that faces all Stanley Cup winners, from players to coaches to trainers, how to appropriately mark what will be a seminal moment in their lives.

Although teams had been given the Cup to enjoy in the offseason in the past, it was, in general, a haphazard process marked by the sometimes shoddy condition in which the Cup was returned to its home in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Only since 1995, when the New Jersey Devils won their first of three Cups, has the Hockey Hall of Fame taken an active role in the Cup's summer forays, sending along a representative from the Hall (a Keeper of the Cup as it were) to ensure Lord Stanley does not call into disrepair as it visits with each member of the team.

Over the course of an average summer, the Cup will travel some 60,000 miles and will bear witness to graveside visits, drunken revelry and tearful family reunions. It is an odyssey that is unique in the world of sport, a journey that pays special tribute to the very personal journeys of each of the men whose name is inscribed on the side of the trophy.

Here are two examples of that journey:

ERIC STAAL
After just two NHL seasons, Eric Staal became a Stanley Cup champion. The young forward is every bit as unassuming as his hometown in Ontario. But for one day, Stanley overruled sod in Thunder Bay. Story

BRET HEDICAN
Bret Hedican battled many obstacles to reach hockey glory. The third trip to the finals was the charm for the 36-year-old D-man, who finally got to celebrate with family and friends in Minnesota. Story