Wednesday Night Cup

MIKE STROBEL -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

History may one day put the Wednesday Nighters in the same league as Lord Stanley. "Gentlemen," says their missive to the trustees of the Cup.

"By submission of this letter we the undersigned on behalf of the members of the Darks and the Lights of the Wednesday Nighters formally request consideration for inclusion in this year's Stanley Cup Challenge ... in determining the 'best' hockey team in the Dominion of Canada."

There she be. The gauntlet, thrown.

Now the Wednesday Nighters, frankly, are no Miracle on Ice.

They have logged 30 years of weekly shinny and not once has a pro scout shown up.

They have no uniforms, nor refs, nor even goalies.

Many have grey beards and brittle bones. Others are young and cocky.

A motley crew. But they play at Upper Canada College's rink and they ice more lawyers than your average hockey team.

Over pops a few weeks back, one of them wondered: Does the NHL actually own the Cup?

They did a little legal snooping, then found freestanley.com, an Edmonton fan lobby.

Two days ago the Wednesday Nighters applied to spar for the Cup.

The odds, I would say, are slim.

'SO FAR NO RESPONSE'

There is the small matter of Lord Stanley intending the Cup to go to the best team in the land.

Certainly, the NHL would not give it up easily, even if the season is stone cold.

"So far no response," winger, lawyer and team secretary Gard Shelley, 55, tells me.

I have an inkling.

Forget about it, trustee and NHL legend Scotty Morrison told me earlier this week when I asked if the Cup could roam.

If the answer stays "no," the Wednesday Nighters might go for a few more beers and decide to take it to court.

"It could spread," says Gard.

"Other teams, other leagues would join the action, with a judge saying, 'okay, we'll have a hearing.'"

If not, well, hell, "we've sent a message. Fans saying this is what hockey is all about."

Freestanley.com co-founder Mark Suits, 44, says his crowd will help the Wednesday Nighters any way it can.

The website has had 200,000 hits. The only naysayers are from Tampa Bay, surprise, surprise.

The site includes a form letter your team can send to the trustees.

What's the notion, Mark?

"We want to make sure the Stanley Cup is awarded this year. That's what Lord Stanley intended. He donated the Cup to the people of Canada.

"We say the NHL doesn't own it."

The league says it does, per pacts in 1947 and 2000.

Freestanley.com's legal adviser, though, says the trustees had no right to flout Lord Stanley's intent.

BEER AND LOVE

But, Mark, wouldn't hockey's Holy Grail be demeaned if it went to minor leaguers?

"Not awarding the Cup because of a dispute over money tarnishes its image far more than awarding it to hard-working hockey players, to the best team playing in Canada."

That last bit may hurt the Wednesday Nighters' cause, unless "best" involves beer and love for the game.

You never know.

Gard Shelley says if the trustees give the go, the Nighters in dark jerseys will face the Nighters in light jerseys at UCC.

Tickets will be $10, to benefit the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research.

They will not even insist on having their names engraved on the Cup. This is a selling point because Tampa Bay took the last spot and a new layer is needed.

The mighty Wednesday Nighters will pass around the Cup in triumph and pose for photos.

"Who hasn't dreamed of doing that?" says Gard.

They promise to return it to the Hall of Fame, pronto.

First they will retire as usual to the bar.

They will see if beer tastes any sweeter when drunk from that blessed Cup.

As Lord Stanley intended.


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