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you can't drink beer out of a nobel prize

Mike Bolt, Keeper of the Stanley Cup, on His White Gloves and Hanging Out With John Cusack

We're not sure we've ever gotten a more surreal phone call than the one we received from the New York receptionist yesterday afternoon: "Joe, I have the Stanley Cup here for you." It was true: Waiting for us at the front desk, as scheduled, was the iconic trophy, accompanied by Mike Bolt, who since 2000 has been one of the Keepers of the Cup, charged with following it wherever it travels. Bolt's in New York this week to promote the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which began last night and will end in June in a city that's most definitely not New York. Bolt spoke with The Sports Section about having a job that everyone wants, what the Cup's not allowed to do, and more.

A lot of people must want your job.
Yeah, definitely. It might be the most coveted position in hockey, as far as the fans are concerned. Fans want this job, and you hear it from players, and, heck, the commissioner, Gary Bettman, has even said, "Oh, I think you have one of the greatest jobs."

There's a replica of the Cup out there, right?
Yeah. This is the real thing here. This is the Presentation Cup — the one that goes on the ice every single year. And the replica sits on display at the Hall of Fame in Toronto. This sits there maybe 20 or 30 days a year. It's not there very often.

It looks like the bottom of the Cup changed last year.
It was just the logo on the bottom was the old Hockey Hall of Fame logo, and when we moved into our new facility in Toronto, we changed to a new logo, and that's the logo that's now on the bottom of the Cup. It's just one of those things we never got around to doing. We were always talking, we should change it, we should change it, we should change it. It wasn't a high-priority thing. It was done in Montreal by the Boffey Silversmiths — the same company that looks after the Cup. A lot of true hockey fans notice that. They ask, "Hey is that a different Cup?" No, we just changed the plastic plate.

How quickly do you go through white gloves?
God, every day. These were pure white this morning, and they're a little dirty. It shows why you wash your hands a lot. They usually last me about ten washes, and then they're done. But every day I put on a clean pair, no different than socks or underwear.

Have you ever had to tell a player he couldn't do something with the Cup?
Absolutely. One guy wanted to parachute with it, another guy wanted to do an underwater shot. I mean, it's documented: Yes, it's been in pools, it's been in lakes, but pools are really bad because of chlorine, and salt water is really bad. And if it's underwater, then it gets water-logged, and if you have anything that's hollow and it gets full of water, it's really impossible to get it out. In 1995 they really tightened up the rules to keep it respectful, so no casinos and no strip joints anymore.

If you won the Stanley Cup as a player, what would you do with it?
Great question. I've thought about it, and of course, I would want to win it with the Maple Leafs, because Toronto's my hometown. I'd spend time in Toronto with it, start off probably with breakfast with some friends and family, probably take it to a hospital, raise some money for charity. And the afternoon would be full of trying to do some neat things with it. I would take it some scenic places, maybe try and take it to the top of the CN Tower. I would just take it around the city of Toronto, probably do some bar hopping with it and try to come up with something unique. Given the fact that I'm a Cup Keeper, I would like to see something unique and something different done with it as long as it's safe and, again, respectful. I'd have to brainstorm. It's been on top of mountains, it's had ice cream eaten out of it. It's very rare guys come up with a new idea.

What have been some of the better ideas?
Scott Parker and Darren McCarty had harnesses designed for the back of their bikes. Marty Brodeur took it to the movies and his kids ate popcorn out of it. And Chris Chelios knows more celebrities than anybody. His party was just packed with celebrities. To throw some names out there: Ray Liotta, Cuba Gooding Jr., John C. McGinley from Scrubs. Wayne Gretzky showed up, and then Tom Hanks and Sylvester Stallone crashed the party. I don't know if crashed is the right word; it was on a beach in Malibu. Kid Rock played the party that night.

Chris had two days, and he also had it in Chicago, where he took it to a Cubs game and a White Sox game. Two of his other buddies are John Cusack and Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, and Eddie was the catcher for Chris throwing the opening pitch at the Cubbies game, and Cusack was just hanging out along with some other hockey players there. It was a lot of fun. We went to a Cubs game, and then we went to a Sox game, and that night the Cup, Chelios, and, of course, myself, who rides the Cup's coattails, got to go to Eddie Vedder's concert. We walk into the green room and there's Sean Penn, so Chelios got a picture with Sean. So the show began, and we were up in the balcony in this theater in Chicago, and it was John Cusack, Sean Penn, myself, Chelios, and the Cup in the middle. That was not a bad day. My job really didn't really suck too much that day. I can tell you another story about that day if you've got a second.

By all means.
We were going around on a limo bus and it didn't have a bathroom. And, you know, it was his day celebrating, having a couple of pops, and we're driving to see the Sox. So Chelios sees these kids playing catch outside, so he jumps off the bus, and their mom and dad were on the front porch. "Oh my God, it's Chris Chelios! Oh my God, it's the Stanley Cup!" He said, "I'll make you guys a deal: You can get a picture with the Stanley Cup if I can use your washroom." Absolutely, come on in. So everybody comes off the bus, and we put the Cup in the house, and there was actually 25 to 30 people in the house, because they were having a baseball party. Everyone's taking pictures while the guys on the bus were using the washroom, and we were there for maybe 20 to 25 minutes. And maybe five minutes before we left, some lady turns and goes, "Oh my God, you're John Cusack!" And he says, "Yup." Anyway, we get on the bus, and Cusack, not trying to be arrogant, says, "I just love the Cup. It's such a deterrent. Earlier in the day Eddie Vedder and I were walking along the concourse at Wrigley Field, and the Cup's ten feet in front of us, and no one even recognizes us. I'm in a house with a bunch of people, and no one notices me for twenty minutes. It was great. The Stanley Cup draws everybody's attention."

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Photo: Melissa Hom