The Highlands go Cup crazy 0
Bernie Nicholls, right, who was the consultant coach for the Los Angeles Kings, fulfilled a promise to bring the Stanley Cup home on Wednesday, Aug. 1. Among the places he took it was at his family hunt camp where he posed with his brothers Erin and Dave, including father George, left. He said his father was his best coach. DARREN LUM/HALIBURTON ECHO/QMI AGENCY
Nothing lasts forever.
However, Bernie Nicholls could argue some things do after spending a day with the Stanley Cup.
The proud West Guilford son with the beaming smile and an accommodating streak, who was a consultant coach for the Stanley Cup winning Los Angeles Kings this year, will never forget the smiles and wide eyes of those seeing and touching the iconic NHL sports trophy – particularly those of his family, most importantly his father and mother.
The former NHL player, who started his career with the Kings, was among the privileged few to get one of 100 days with it – a unique tradition that started in 1993.
This past Wednesday, Nicholls spent close to a day with the Cup, taking it around for photos to the family’s hunt camp in Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve, parents’ place in West Guilford, the local gas station/garage in West Guilford, his hunting tree stand, Moose FM, the Dysart arena and Curry Motors.
The night before, he and his family were busy putting out much of his collected memorabilia and awards, amassed during his career.
He shared the day with as many people who wanted to share it and the iconic Canadian trophy donated by Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, Lord Stanley of Preston in 1892. It cost the equivalent of $50 at that time. The first team to win it was the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association in 1893.
At 35 pounds and under just under four feet, the Cup is not light, particularly after hundreds of requests to lift and carry it.
And yet Nicholls never complained. He never faltered despite the size and heft of the trophy. There was a seemingly endless strength and energy from the first to the last hour for the retired hockey player.
It’s easy to believe him when he said his strength comes from the community, his parents, brothers and sisters.
He calls his mother his biggest fan. She was invested in every one of his NHL games, staying up for his late starts when he played on the west coast, even if she had to listen from the next room out of anxiety.
Nicholls said his best coach is and always will be his dad.
He took pride in his face-offs and remembers learning from his dad at 11 on the kitchen floor.
During the playoffs, several weeks before he got the Cup, he wanted to bring it to the hunt camp in Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve and to his tree stand in Dysart et al.
Hunting, he said, is an important part of who he is and is integral to his family. When the hunt is on, the entire family is involved. For his 18-year NHL career, he missed the hunts. Now he is making up for lost time. It was part of his reluctance to coach, but he said he is ready to rejoin the team next year.
There are a few important rules when you get the Cup. Respect is key. Hoisting the Cup is usually reserved for those who have won it. It’s one of a few important points of protocol.
Another thing that comes with it is one of four minders from the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Although Phil Pritchard is “the face” of the minders, there are actually three others, who ensure the Cup is respected.
On his last day of a week-long assignment, escorting it to Connecticut, New York, Simcoe, Port Dover, Belmont Lake and finally Haliburton, Walter Neubrand was all smiles.
Neubrand, with a dry wit and corresponding one-liners, enjoyed the variety and the thought behind Nicholls’s plan for the day.
He said most people bring it home to share with family and friends and then take some photos. They often end the night with a party.
It wasn’t until 1995, he said, that the Hockey Hall of Fame got involved, bringing minders for the Cup. Up to that point the Cup was just given to the winning team for the duration of the 100 days.
The first week after the winning game is often the wildest, he said.
A school teacher from Hamilton, Neubrand said in his years with the Cup he’s only had to cut one person’s day short. That was Dominick Hasek. After having a few too many, Hasek threw the Cup in a pool and, in the process, put Neubrand’s Hall of Fame partner in the pool, too. Neubrand immediately ended the day despite Hasek’s best efforts to change his mind.
The most memorable experience was with French national former NHL goalie Cristobal Huet, who walked the Cup up the stairs to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. He was there for every step.
The Stanley Cup is the only professional sports trophy that provides the winning team an opportunity to have it for 100 days.
There are 52 names inscribed to represent the team.
Nicholls believes his will be one of them.
As a boy (and even now) he said his hockey hero is Bryan Trottier, who won the Cup seven times, including once as a coach.
It’s a dream come true, he said, to share a spot on the Cup with a man who stood for so much.
A dream day and one that he and anyone who shared in it will never forget.