Has the Stanley Cup gone missing?

Summertime is here – and that’s not ice hockey-time anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, of course. (Its winter in the Southern Hemisphere, but there they simply don’t play ice hockey.) Instead, summertime is “Stanley Cup Tour” time, i.e. when each player on the NHL Stanley Cup-winning team (plus, apparently, “franchise staff”) gets to “take possession” of the Cup for 24 hours in his hometown, wherever that may happen to be. This year you can keep track of the Stanley Cup Tour (on a rather delayed and incomplete basis, I have to say) on the website of the Hockey Hall of Fame. For example, the Cup made the trek up to Anchorage, Alaska, on July 15, because New Jersey Devil center Scott Gomez hails from there. (This was not for the first time; Gomez was also on the Devils team that won the NHL championship back in 2000. You can read all about this year’s festivities here.)

One reason I have to add “delayed” to my description of the Devils’ Stanley Cup Tour site is that it is not on that site (nor, indeed, from any American on-line media I can find; no mention was made even on Google News) that one can read that the Cup has apparently gone missing – not in Alaska, granted, but on a trip it was supposed to make to the eastern Czech Republic/Slovakia. Instead, we’re tipped off about this in the Czech newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes; they take hockey – and I mean NHL hockey – very seriously in that part of the world, too.

From the New Jersey Devils’ roster, provided by ESPN here, it looks like the Stanley Cup is scheduled to go this year precisely to that same part of the world, known to many as the “Wild East” for the (understandably) less-than-rapid transition that has still yet to be completed from socialist regimes to Western standards of law-and-order. It has also traveled there before in the past, specifically to the Czech Republic. This time, though, Devils center Sergei Brylin gets to parade the Cup around Moscow, fellow center Patrick Elias around his hometown of Trebic, Czech Republic, and left wing Jiri Bicek around Kosice, the second-largest city in Slovakia which is in the eastern portion of that country. Defenseman Richard Smehlik also gets the same treat, and he’s from Ostrava, the major city (together with Brno) in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. (“Trebic” necessarily lacks a pair of additional diacritical marks which would render this Czech name completely accurately; to find out what those are, or to simply find out where in Moravia Trebic is located – or, maybe, where Moravia itself is in the first place – and more information about the city, in English, you can go here. What’s worse, the ESPN still lists “Czechoslovakia” on that roster – a country which ceased to exist at the end of 1992 – rather than the Czech Republic and Slovakia which replaced it. Looking at the roster, you would think that Elias and Bicek come from the same country, whereas they do not. Furthermore, Richard Smehlik is not listed on the ESPN Devils roster, although another on-line source – Sports Illustrated – confirms that he is on the team, and that he hails from Ostrava. See how, even in the age of the Internet, you still have to weave things together because standard news-providers refuse to be complete?)

But back to the missing Cup: According to the Mlada Fronta Dnes report, the Cup went missing after the flight carrying it left Toronto airport; one problem, it seems, is that airline officials insisted that it travel in the baggage hold of the plane like ordinary baggage, and not on the lap of one of the two guards assigned by the NHL to watch over it. Thus separated, there was little in the way of “watching over” that they could do, and indeed it was missing when it was supposed to arrive by plane at the airport in Ostrava.

That’s where MFD leaves the story: Cup missing in the Czech Republic. Why hasn’t there been more uproar about this? Why hasn’t this story been broken by some media outlet, any media outlet in the US and/or Canada, home to the dominant hockey league for which yearly possession of the Cup as champion is a team’s crowning achievement? Maybe word is being slow to trickle back West, across the Atlantic. Maybe they found the Cup again, but that news came to late for MFD‘s publishing deadline. Anyway, just remember, you heard it here second – first from MFD (but in Czech, and for many of us that poses a certain problem), and then from EuroSavant.

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