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NHL's Stanley Cup makes rare stop in Sparks
by Dan Eckles
Jul 30, 2013 | 1619 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Abe Theiss and his wife Robyn place their 3-month old daughter Maggie into the bowl of the Stanley Cup during a ceremony at Wirtz Beverage in Sparks Tuesday.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Abe Theiss and his wife Robyn place their 3-month old daughter Maggie into the bowl of the Stanley Cup during a ceremony at Wirtz Beverage in Sparks Tuesday.
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Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reno aces mascot Archie, and his legendary tongue, got a chance Tuesday to share a moment with the Stanley Cup, the trophy awarded annually to the NHL champion.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reno aces mascot Archie, and his legendary tongue, got a chance Tuesday to share a moment with the Stanley Cup, the trophy awarded annually to the NHL champion.
slideshow
The Truckee Meadows isn't exactly synonymous with the National Hockey League. There certainly is not an NHL team, or a minor league team for that matter, that makes its home in Reno-Sparks. In fact, the San Jose Sharks are the lone NHL franchise within 400 miles.

However, for about two hours Tuesday, northern Nevada, and Sparks specifically, was pretty important to the NHL. That's because Rocky Wirtz, chairman of the 2013 NHL champion Chicago Blackhawks and President of the Wirtz Beverage Group, brought the Stanley Cup to the local Wirtz facility in the Spanish Springs Industrial Park.

"It's important to share this with all of our employees," Wirtz said late Tuesday morning, while taking a few minutes away from the company ceremony to chat with local media. "Sometimes Las Vegas gets all the fun, but we've got employees here in northern Nevada too, so it was important to bring it to Reno too.

"It's been a whirlwind … We started in Springfield, Ill. Then we went to Minnesota and had a ceremony at Hazeltine Golf Course with about 600 people. We flew to Vegas yesterday and took it to Nellis (Air Force Base) and the Bellagio and shared it with our employees there last night. Now we're here and we'll be wheels up at 1 p.m."

The Stanley Cup is the trophy awarded to the NHL's champion each summer. However, unlike the Larry O'Brien trophy won by the NBA champion or the Vince Lombardi trophy won by the NFL champion, a new Stanley Cup is not made each year. Each year's NHL champion has its players, coaches, management and club staff names engraved on the Cup. The league champion keeps the Cup only until the next year's champion is crowned.

"It's a fun trophy to play for," Wirtz said. "It doesn't have the same feel as other championship trophies because you don't get to keep it. Everyone wants their chance to experience it. The Cup has great heritage."

In addition to Wirtz employees, their families and select friends, as well as a handful of Wirtz customers and some local military members were invited to the private event. Roughly 300 people were in attendance.

Jeff Fein is a district sales manager for Wirtz Beverage of Nevada. He said local employees first learned last week of the Cup's trip to the Spanish Springs valley.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal," Fein said. "Our fiscal year ends in June, so we were having our 2014 kickoff event last week. That's when we learned Rocky and (Senior Vice President) Kevin (Roberts) would be coming. It's great to bring the Cup to northern Nevada. It's awesome. This is a good time."

Fein wasn't the only Wirtz employee with that sentiment. Reno resident and Wirtz sales manager John Higgins didn't miss out on his chance to see and touch the Cup.

"It's the most recognizable trophy in all of sports," Higgins said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see it. This company is great. I've been with it for 27 years, 25 here in Reno, and it's just got a real family focus. The chance to do this is special."

According to an inquiry and response from the Hockey Hall of Fame, which has two trustees, one of which is always traveling with the Cup no matter where it goes, the Stanley Cup has only been to the Reno-Sparks area one other time. That was in 1996 when the Colorado Avalanche won the Cup and goaltender Patrick Roy brought the Cup here while playing in a golf tournament.

Local hockey fans weren't oblivious to the fact that the Cup's presence in the Truckee Meadows is rare.

"It's the Stanley Cup! Exactly, that's all that needs to be said," according to Sparks resident and Nevada Air Guard Master Sargent Jason Huth, who was waiting in line for his chance to get a moment with the Cup. "Not everyone gets to see the Stanley Cup. I love hockey. We were just talking in line that it's too bad Reno doesn't even have a rink any more."

Brad Platte is an Illinois transplant now making his home in northern Nevada. He said he's a fan of all Chicago sports teams. When he learned the Stanley Cup would be showcased locally after his beloved Blackhawks won the Cup last month, he was chomping at the bit to see it with his own eyes.

"I was born and raised in Illinois. I've been a Blackhawks fan all my life," he said. "It's exciting, a once-in-a-lifetime show. It will probably never come back to this part of the country."

The Cup is made of Silver and Nickel. It is 35.25 inches high and weighs 34.5 pounds. It has been won 95 times by a combined 18 active NHL teams and five defunct teams.
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