By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) For something so sacred and fetishized, it sure is icky.
It’s part of the romance of the Stanley Cup, that such a shiny talisman of glory has an unsanitary history as the trophy of the people, set free from glass-case isolation to travel the world, but it will always be odd to see the number of people who want to go out of their way to put their lips on it.
It could be tonight, the onset of yet another Chicago party that carries on for weeks, involving the Stanley Cup popping up in bars and homes to be photographed for everyone’s Instagram, Twitter avatar and Facebook profile photo, with many of those showing another smooch, apparently to provide some valid evidence of one’s superfandom.
Bleh. You might as well slurp the handrail of an airport escalator, lick a bathroom door or eat soup out of a rented bowling shoe.
Take it from one of its keepers, if not from me. Walt Neubrand is one of the handful of men charged with shepherding it from place to place, and he’d know best.
“I laugh at people who kiss it,” he told Time Magazine. “I mean, would you kiss a subway pole? Hey, if you get hepatitis, don’t blame me.”
The fact that we actually see so many people kissing it is one thing — all the players and executives and family members and owners in the immediate aftermath, then unwashed mobs of drunken fans at every location at which it later appears, with nobody caring to see when it might get a proper disinfecting in between the casual lovemaking sessions.
Then there are the legendary stories that we know. After the Red Wings won in 2008, Kris Draper’s infant daughter pooped in it. Lynn Patrick and his New York Rangers teammates peed in it and on it. Mark Messier let his favorite Edmonton stripper give it a lap dance, Ed Olczyk celebrated the 1994 title by letting a horse eat out of it at the Belmont and the Blackhawks’ own Dustin Byfuglien used it as a minnow bucket.
And considering the things we already know about the off-ice habits of professional hockey players, the mind reels when we wonder all the incidents still secret that could read like the Led Zeppelin shark story, tales of certain movie-set trailers or the after-party at Caligula’s.
It’s NHL tradition for teams to eschew either the Clarence Campbell Bowl or the Prince of Wales Trophy upon winning either conference, avoiding whatever hex would be incurred and somehow honoring the more important prize, which the eventual winners can’t wait to take turns defiling and befouling.
We’re otherwise obsessed with cleanliness and germs these days, many of us who fastidiously wipe down our shopping carts, keep our little bottles of Purell at the ready and sidle away from the coughing guy on the elevator or the wheezing woman at the gym. Half of parents now seem to carry Epi-pens, in case some horrible allergen lurks in the air or on a surface.
But Lord Stanley’s Cup engenders no such caution, with people seemingly overcome by the zeal of wanting both the intimate connection to vicarious achievement and the photo to prove it. That the image is now ubiquitous and cliche around here is a sign of dynasty, but it’s one that’s at least a little gross.
Blackhawks fans can be forgiven for tasting a title right now. Better that than after the fact.