Russian Machine Never Breaks

The Capitals invented the Cup stand. The tradition bent the bowl of the Stanley Cup.

Washington Capitals players celebrated their Stanley Cup victory hard in June. There were shirtless fountain celebrations, sloppy parties, drunk tattoos, and Cup stands. Lots and lots of Cup stands. But the Stanley Cup managed to survive without a ding or a scratch.

“The guys were really, really careful that they weren’t going to damage it,” Philip Pritchard, the Keeper of the Cup, said to USA Today’s Michelle R. Martinelli in mid June.

“All Alex’s weight was on [Braden] Holtby and [Brooks] Orpik, they were holding it all. There was no pressure on the Cup or anything,” Pritchard said of the team’s ritual. “And that’s what I think is great about a Stanley Cup champion: they know how hard it is to win, and they’re not going to do anything disrespectful or that can damage the trophy in any way.”

However, in late July, something seemed different about the Cup.

During the Cup’s jaunt through the midwest, new head coach Todd Reirden picked up the championship trophy from its case. Something was noticeably off.

The Stanley Cup’s bowl was bent and misshapen.

Photo: @capitals

So what happened? We turned to social media to try and find an answer.

The Stanley Cup is arguably the most famous and cherished trophy in all of sport. The silver chalice, first given out in 1893, has been won a combined 101 times by 18 active NHL teams and five defunct clubs. Featuring a round bowl and eight silver rings, the names of every player, coach, and management are etched onto the trophy.

Photo: The Robinson Library

Wherever the Cup goes, a frenzy follows it. This excitement for the Cup inspires hundreds of photos and videos to be taken everyday and posted online. That in turn has created a digital footprint for the Cup, where the trophy’s whereabouts and, in this case, its appearance are tracked almost down to the hour.

After going through public posts on Twitter and Instagram, the Cup’s bowl appears to have been bent on TJ Oshie’s day with the Stanley Cup.

The Cup’s bowl was round on Jakub Vrana’s day on July 12.

A post shared by Risa stipek (@risastipek4) on

The Cup’s bowl was round when Oshie took it out of the case the morning of July 24.

Video via @Capitals

The bowl remained round when TJ shared the Cup with fans in Warroad and later when Shane Gersich did a Cup stand at his private party in Minneapolis.

But in video posted by an Oshie friend towards the end of that night, the bowl is clearly bent. The video appears third in the Instagram gallery post.

Here’s a still.

Photo: @bhorton24

The Capitals’ video detailing Oshie’s day offered more evidence the bowl was damaged when the forward put the trophy back in its case.

There appears to be a corner developing. The circle is not perfectly round.

Photo: @Capitals

Since June, the bowl has absorbed stress and abuse that its never had to before. According to the Keeper of the Cup, the Caps are the first team to ever do a Cup stand.

Via the Capitals’ Mike Vogel:

A few champagne toasts were given, and then the kegstands commenced. It was here that one of us wondered whether these kegstands were a frequent thing with previous Cup-winners. According to Pritchard, not at all. He doesn’t remember any other team ever doing kegstands, so consider that the Caps’ unique contribution to the Cup’s still expanding 125-year lore and history.

During the days that followed Oshie’s private party, more media was posted showing how extensive the damage was.

The Keeper of the Cup posted two photos featuring Madison Bowey on July 28 with the bend of the bowl noticeable in the foreground.

Photo: @keeperofthecup

Photo: @keeperofthecup

Days later, on August 1, Braden Holtby’s horse Munchie ate out of the misshapen bowl.

Photo: @keeperofthecup

When Tom Wilson had the Stanley Cup on August 5, the bowl looked more round again, suggesting it could have been hammered back into shape.

Photo: @capitals

Later in August, players and coaches raised the Cup up differently. After all summer of players holding the Cup over their head by the rim, Jay Beagle and Barry Trotz held the Cup with their left hand under the bowl.

Photos: @dauphinkings and @keeperofthecup

There has also been extra caution taken now with the Cup stands. During locker room assistant Ray Straccia day with the Cup, extra support was used to prop the Cup stand drinkers up.

But the scars of the Caps’ summer remains.

#beer#stanleycup#fun#nhl

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“I know the whole thing was pretty thrashed when I saw it,” a partygoer, who wished to remain anonymous, said to RMNB after a Cup day in early July. “The bowl was dinged, the base was crooked, someone carved their initials in it too. We were under a strict no Cup stands rule because the base was bent.”

“Everyone broke that rule though,” the source added.

When asked for comment, a Washington Capitals representative referred us to Philip Pritchard.

“It happens every year, the bowl gets damaged – basically it gets ‘out of round’ if you know what I mean,” Pritchard said. “It happens because it is a 125-year old trophy and not designed for guys to hoist like [they do]. It is nobody’s fault, it just happens every year. It has become part of the lore of sports’ greatest trophy.”

Pritchard is right. This isn’t the first time that winners of the Stanley Cup have dinged the trophy.

1905 Ottawa Silver Sevens

The Ottawa Silver Sevens won the Stanley Cup so many times that by the later years it didn’t even mean anything special to them. A Sports Illustrated article from 1977 written by Arnold Schechter reminisces on some of the Silver Seven experiences. The best came from the 1905 win.

After the battle, the Silver Seven retired to the bar in the Russell Hotel for a celebration. It was reported that Forward Harry Smith, Alf’s ebullient brother, had, on a dare, drop-kicked the Stanley Cup into the Rideau Canal, returning with a hangover the next morning to reclaim the trophy from the dry bed of the waterway. “We only took it home to show it to mother,” said the Smiths, who also admitted, “We did throw it around a little.”

The team drop kicked the Stanley Cup into Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, leaving it overnight and returned in the morning to reclaim it. Luckily it was in a dry part of the canal so there wasn’t severe water damage.

1999 Dallas Stars

After the 1999 win, the Dallas Stars partied with Pantera. That might seem like an incredibly random matchup, but the Stars managed to build a friendship with the Arlington, TX band and they really like to party.

When the Cup managed to get a massive dent in it, the Stars spokesperson said it was dropped in the locker room while celebrating. But, other stories circulated back to this party.

From Hooked on Hockey:

. . . Guy [Carbonneau], Luds (Craig Ludwig), and Matty (Richard Matvichuk) were upstairs. They were yelling something out of the window that I could not make out.” He went on to explain that Carbonneau tossed the Cup out of the window, but said it looked more like he accidentally dropped the Cup than intentionally threw it. The cup then hit the lip of the swimming pool and fell in. While the keeper of the Cup claims that didn’t happened, the source I spoke to simply said, “Didn’t see him,” and that reactions were a mix of party attendees laughing, indifference, or shock.

Vinnie Paul was more direct: “It really got dented when Guy Carbonneau threw it off my balcony into my pool.”

2008 Detroit Red Wings

After the Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup parade in 2008, the team went back to party at Chris Chelios’ restaurant in Detroit. The Cup was pushed off the table and got a big dent in it that the team paid to have smoothed out. It wasn’t until later at the NHL Awards that it was revealed the damage was way worse than original believed.

2011 Boston Bruins

The damage the Cup endured in the summer of 2011 cannot be hidden under some false story, as there is actual video evidence of it when Michael Ryder took the Cup to his hometown of Bonavista, Canada. As the Cup was sitting on a table during an outdoor event, the table’s legs collapsed and the Cup took a tumble. The top part suffered a great deal of damage and had a oval opening.

2016 Pittsburgh Penguins

After the Penguins won the Cup in San Jose in 2016, the Keeper of the Cup posted a photo of Matt Cullen walking onto the plane to head back to Pittsburgh. The bottom of the Cup visible in the photo had quite a big ding in it. No one knows what happened, but it probably took a spill during their locker room celebrations.

The NHL typically makes teams that damaged the Cup pay for the repairs, having the 1962 Toronto Maple Leafs foot the bill after fire damage and the 1987 Edmonton Oilers repair it themselves at a local body shop. It is unclear whether it is preferred the repair has to come from the damaging party before returning it or if the NHL bills the team that damages it.

Additional reporting by Ian Oland.

Headline photo: @YoccosHotDogs