Tales of the Stanley Cup are best left untold

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:54 AM ET

Lyle (Sparky) Kulchisky says he was never officially named "The Keeper of the Cup."

The players just started calling him that.

And, thinking back to 25 years ago, he can't remember ever actually being appointed to the job, officially.

"Slats called me up and said 'Sparky, where's the Cup?' I had to track it down in the middle of the night because it had places to be in the morning," he said of Oilers' coach and general manager Glen Sather.

"From that moment, it kind of became my job to hang around until the boys were finished with it and to take it to its next adventure."

WASN'T ACCOUNTED FOR

One thing he knows for sure is that it wasn't accounted for on the night of May 19, 1984, when they first won it.

"The dressing room was a disaster," the assistant equipment man of the Oilers remembers all these years later.

"We didn't know how to handle winning a Stanley Cup as a staff. There had to be 100 people in our dressing room.

"When it finally cleared, we looked around and said 'Holy spit, what happened?' Wherever the Cup went that first night, I didn't go with it."

The next night, he thinks, is when it began to happen -the special relationship Stanley had with this city which would leave every historian completely convinced Stanley had more fun in Edmonton.

Mark Messier, with Kevin Lowe and the Cup in tow, decided to take it into his hometown watering hole in St. Albert, the Bruin Inn.

From that surprise visit, it became a nightly tour of bars and restaurants and gatherings where some of the young players who would become Hall of Famers - like hometown products Messier and Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson - would just show up unannounced somewhere to experience the thrill of sharing the Cup with their fans.

For most, Lord Stanley's famous silverware was something they never expected to see live and in person, much less in Edmonton.

To be able to see the Stanley Cup, touch it and be invited by some of the players who won it to actually drink out of the oldest trophy in North American pro sport was beyond belief.

It was a dream sequence played over and over again all over town in the spring of 1984 when the Oilers first won it and then won it again, and again and again and again.

"There was never a city where Stanley met so many people and spent so much time with the players," said Lowe.

And there was Sparky Kulchisky, living it almost every hour he was awake.

"Any time I lost track of it, it usually ended up with Gretzky, Messier or Lowe," he said.

"If I wasn't out with the boys, I'd usually get a call about 2 a.m. to come and get it because it had to be at a school or hospital first thing in the morning."

In a Yogi Berra-type quote, Kulchisky said he "has so many memories of those days, I wish I could remember them.

"The one I remember best, I guess, is the one that happened almost every night. I'd take the Cup to my car, put the seat belt on it in the passenger seat and drive home. There I'd be with maybe the most famous trophy in the world in the seat next to me driving around Edmonton with people doing double takes if they looked in my window."

Stanley spent a lot of springs sleeping on Kulchi-sky's couch.

"In those days there was no guy with white gloves escorting it everywhere and no long list of rules about where it could go and couldn't go," Kulchisky remembers 25 years later.

'ON THE MOVE'

"That Cup was on the move for 18 to 20 hours a day after we won it," he said not only of the first year but the five times the Oilers - the last dynasty in Stanley Cup history - won it.

"It made its rounds. It worked hard and played hard."

And it was Kulchisky, who was Stanley's best friend right from the night they first met.

"Being the Keeper of the Cup is about as good as it gets," he said.

"I got to do it five times and each time was greater than the time before.

"It never got old watching the look on people's faces.

"I've seen ladies crying just touching the Stanley Cup. Everybody just wanted to touch it. Everyone was so proud.

"Whether it was young people at a school, with everybody in the whole school lining up to touch it or oldtimers at a function doing the same thing, you could see in their faces how the Stanley Cup was something almost sacred."

Kulchisky says whether it was a tear in their eye or a lump in their throat, each moment was a memory and, he wagers, there are more houses in Edmonton with more pictures of regular people having a sip out of the Stanley Cup than in the rest of the houses in Canada combined.

One year team photographer Bob Mummery was assigned to follow the Cup around, kind of to play the role of Sparky with a camera.

"It ended up in damn near every bar in Edmonton and a few outside Edmonton. Every Joe in town had a chance to have a drink out of it. The party went on for two weeks. Those two weeks of my life are lost forever. I can barely remember them," he recalled.

At least he has the pictures.

True, Stanley had a couple of rough nights.

Sparky remembers one when Dave Semenko presented him with the Cup early one morning with a problem. Stanley had suffered an upper body injury.

"Semenk brought it to me two pieces. He had the bowl in one hand and the base in another."

Kulchisky didn't know what to do. So he took it to a mechanic at Freedom Ford. He fixed Stanley up as good as new to make a noon appearance.

On another occasion, when the Oilers were supposed to be taking the team picture with the Cup, too many players failed to show up because of their nocturnal tours with the trophy.

Messier and a contingent took it from the Coliseum across the street to a strip joint where Stanley ended up on stage.

But for every, er, indiscretion, there were there were thousands of good, wholesome moments.

Stanley was best man at Randy Gregg's wedding.

"I took a walk with it one day," remembered Gregg. "That was great. I'd walk down the street and somebody would drive past and look at the Cup like they didn't believe what they were seeing. Then they'd get about two blocks away and all of a sudden they'd slam on the brakes and drive back, climb out of the car and ask if they could touch it."

When the Oilers' run was done, the league came to decide that Stanley shouldn't be having such a good time. What the league never understood was that nowhere was Stanley more adored than here from that first night Wayne Gretzky held Stanley over his head.

"The Oilers always had the attitude that Stanley belonged to the fans. The league developed the idea that the Cup should be worshiped."

Stanley was on a first name basis with the fans in Edmonton like he wasn't before or since. And that's what made what happened on May 19, 1984 most special.


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