KANDAHAR -- The Stanley Cup has never been in this kind of danger, but neither has it had better protection.
The 118-year-old trophy is the special guest of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan this week, complete with its own military ID tag, arriving yesterday with an honour guard of National Hockey League enforcers here to meet and greet -- and play ball hockey.
It came by way of a noisy and cramped Hercules transport plane, whose final approach was through air space still subject to Taliban attack.
While the Joint Task Force has done much to clear the area in the 10 months since the Cup was first here, the Kandahar Airfield is still subject to rocket attacks.
But as Cup custodian Mike Bolt wryly noted, if Stanley can survive a century of player abuse in post-Cup celebrations, there's no need to worry about putting a dent in it here. Bob Probert took up his seat on the Hercules atop the trunk carrying the Cup, with Chris Nilan, Stu Grimson, Troy Crowder and Dave Hutchison nearby.
"I was nervous as we approached the airfield," said ex-Leaf Mike Gartner, who shared the cockpit with Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy on approach, "but surrounded by all these troops now, I feel a lot more secure."
Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Chief of Staff Gen. Rick Hillier were on hand at the Kandahar Air Field to welcome the trophy and a retinue of players and rock musicians on tour.
Later, the Cup was on display at New Canada House with many automatic weapons slung over Canadian NHL team jerseys in the crowd, while Blue Rodeo and Montreal rockers Jonas invited anyone with a guitar for an impromptu jam session.