Keepers of the Cup

For Mike Bolt and Howie Borrow, sometimes their jobs can be a grind with long hours and almost non-stop travel, but neither of them could think of doing anything else.

The two of them make up the four man team of Stanley Cup keepers – Walt Neubrand and Phil Pritchard being the other two – that travel with the Cup throughout the year.

It’s one of the most unique jobs you can think of, but don’t expect to find an ad for it in the classifieds anytime soon.

“Like any Canadian kid I wanted to grow up and win the Stanley Cup, but like most kids that reality doesn’t come true,” Bolt said of his job that sees him on the road 250 days a year. “The next best thing was getting a job at the Hockey Hall of Fame and I’ve got the second best job in the world getting to look after it, travelling around, hanging out with the players and the organizations. I tell people I only hang out with winners.”

Mike Bolt, centre, carries the Stanley Cup out of Goff Hall at the Woodstock District Community Complex Sunday July 27, as Jake Muzzin signed autographs for fans who were outside. Bolt, along with fellow Cup keeper Howie Borrow, were the two handlers when Muzzin had his day with the Stanley Cup. Borrow and Bolt are two of the four people who travel with the Cup as players, coaches, scouts and other members of the winning organization have their day with the Cup. GREG COLGANSentinel-Review

All four have rotating schedules throughout the summer where they act as guardians of hockey’s most prized trophy when players, coaches, scouts and other members of that years winning organization celebrate with the Cup.

Each keeper normally works a seven to 10 day schedule before having at least a couple days off with at least two people almost always being on the road with the Cup. After Jake Muzzin relinquished the Cup at midnight Sunday, both went back to Toronto with Bolt heading to Saskatchewan Monday and Borrow enjoying a few days off before flying out again Friday when Jarret Stoll and the King’s senior pro scout Rob Laird having their day with Stanley.

In the case of Sunday, when Muzzin had his day with the Cup, their day began when they arrived at his parents house with the trophy at 8 a.m. Jeff Carter had it the day before meaning they left him at 12 a.m., went to their hotel for a few hours of sleep, a 6 a.m. wake-up call followed by the Cup’s daily cleaning and they were on their way to Woodstock for another 16-hour packed day.

“A lot of people see the glamour, but there’s a lot of grunt work and long hours, driving down highways early in the morning or flights on very little sleep,” Bolt said. “It’s a small price to pay though. (Players) work their tails off just to get one day with it. It’s not about us. It’s about these guys. We just try to help make it as enjoyable as possible.”

They’ve also had an added job description since about 2008 with social media making the Cup’s presence more knowledgable and since Oct. 2011, have had their own Twitter account – @KeeperoftheCup – that shows a glimpse of a person’s day with it. They’ve also written journals of their days on the Hall’s website and probably been asked every question imaginable at least 20 times.

“We always get questions where it travels to next, what happens when a band is full, where it’s located or how heavy it is,” Borrow, who said he never gets tired of talking about his job, added. “It’s a fun job. We’re privileged to travel with the players and the team and hang out in some cool locations.”

As far as the planning, the Hall of Fame and the winning organization work together. The Kings take care of the schedule, while the Hall of Fame coordinates the logistics and travel arrangements.

“From the minute the Cup’s won until the banner goes up Oct. 8 we’re going at a 100 miles per hour trying to get the world tour done,” Bolt said.

Bolt has worked for the Hall for 20 years starting in guest services, then special events and after he moved to special projects Pritchard asked him if he was interested in travelling with the Cup, which he’s been doing for 15 years.

For Borrow, his time with the Hall began 10 years ago when he volunteered to work during their inductions. He turned it into a part-time job with the museum before becoming full-time and began travelling with other trophies to events like the World Juniors or Memorial Cup. Pritchard asked him five years ago and he quickly said yes.

“I always call myself a glorified babysitter. Everyone’s happy to see you and it’s one of the most unique and prestigious trophy in sports…,” Borrow said. “It’s one of those things players around the world dream of winning and when they do it’s a special day in their life.”

Their jobs may be to ensure the Cup’s safety, but they each said due to the amount of respect and awe people have towards the trophy, there’s few times to be concerned for it.

Jake Muzzin, left, signs an autograph for a young fan at Southwood Arena Sunday July 27, 2014. Muzzin, who had a parade before signing autographs for three hours, also had it declared Jake Muzzin Day in Woodstock. GREG COLGAN/QMI Agency/Sentinel-Review

“It’s the most prestigious trophy in any professional sport and it’s known around the world,” Bolt said. “Fans are great and they’re in awe of it as much as the players are.”

Normally players get the Cup for 14 to 16 hours, but time permitting, some, like Teemu Selanne, have gotten it for an extra day although it’s rare.

Though the time restraints are strict, it doesn’t stop many from trying to squeeze an extra hour or two with the prize they’ve sought after for much of their lives.

“Jeff Carter jokingly said to us ‘so you’re staying until 3 a.m., right?’ I said ‘come on, I like you a lot, but we’ve got a long day with Jake (Muzzin) tomorrow.’ He let us go a few minutes before 12,” Bolt said laughing. “That’s how they feel about the Stanley Cup. They can’t get enough of it. Right after it’s won, players are non-stop asking where it is. That’s great. You don’t get that with any other trophies in sports.”

At 89.54 centimetres in height and 35.25 cm in diameter weighing in at 15.5 kilograms, according to the Hockey Hall of Fame website, it’s not the lightest trophy to slug around all day, but they’ve got no problem carrying it from site-to-site with their infamous white gloves.

At this point, they’ve almost done everything imaginable with it from taking it to the heights of mountains, letting it ride on a jet ski – with a life jacket, of course – to Chris Chelios’ famous parties in Los Angeles and seen most beverages and foods eaten or drank out of it.

After Kings captain Dustin Brown won it in 2012 he jokingly said if he won it again his only wish was to have all four of the Cup keepers together around a bonfire and he’d just listen to them tell stories.

They’ve seen tears be shed, 1000’s wait hours just for a few seconds to be near it, non-stop smiles when people are around it and trips to children’s hospitals and cancer wards be the highlight of a person’s year.

It’s been under attack in Afghanistan, travels between 300,000 and 400,000 kilometres a year, has travelled to more than 20 countries and is on the road more than 250 days a year.

It’s seen the most elite players in hockey hold it high in celebration and gone to more than a few after hours parties in its time.

If the Stanley Cup cold talk, it’d have a best seller on its hands.

The Cup may just be a trophy, but more than that, it’s a symbol to a hockey loving nation. It’s because of that that either of them said they’d never tire of their job.

“The Stanley Cup has taken on that star status and people want to see it,” Borrow said. “You see tears because it means so much to people. Players get to have their name on it with their heroes and kids can dream of having their names on it one day. They’re all special days and we’re just glad to be part of it.”