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August 29, 2014

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Ice Ice Billy

As celebrities go, the Stanley Cup is perfect

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The Stanley Cup was out on display in 2009 as part of a breakfast featuring NHL players and former players at Simon restaurant at Palms Place in Las Vegas.

Moons ago while visiting Paris' Musée d'Orsay, I was thunderstruck with a notion as I examined as closely as I was allowed the brush strokes used to build one of Vincent van Gogh's self-portraits.

Never have I had so much access to something this famous.

As epiphanies go, this was of the "The Starry Night" variety — epic, important and meaningful. The thought led to an appreciation of appreciation itself.

I am a self-described woefully under-educated art nut. My visiting an art museum makes me as much of an art expert as buying a new putter makes another a scratch golfer. But, still, Griswoldesque out-of-the-way treks to revisit Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum are not uncommon for me. The same can be said about the Musée Picasso in Paris, which I learned was closed for renovation once I arrived in July, only after I had meticulously booked accommodations near the converted 17th-century hotel in the Marais that housed this great collection.

So much for a heightened sense of appreciation. I had taken Pab's place for granted.

The Stanley Cup will make an appearance Thursday night during the Las Vegas Wranglers game, where it will be displayed and accessible for all fans to see and touch and take photos. No one can understate the meaning it has for so many.

In just one case, a loyal Wranglers fan reached out to me this week, disappointed that in his life this will be the second time he will miss a chance to see the Stanley Cup in person. I offered this good man a chance to send me a personal item of some kind, and I would do the next best thing by getting a picture of the item with the Cup on his behalf.

The personal item arrived to the Wranglers offices on Monday. And because it's his personal item, it's not my place to share with anyone what it is. But I will suggest it has something to do with Monty Python.

As a simple point of contrast, a sports career has presented to me a chance or ten to meet and know famous and esteemed athletes from many sports, hall of famers and legends of their fields. Other types of celebrities for other reasons have passed my way, including an idol or two.

Amazing and sometimes inspirational stories have been told. I have asked questions, and sometimes gotten answers. And at times, I've allowed myself to be a fan. But while I would never claim the access has become old hat, the experience of the living celebrity has begun to fade when compared to that of the inanimate celebrity.

Picasso's Guernica can communicate what he was feeling as it was painted, but only it knows more than it will reveal. As well, there is a story in every combed-through dab of paint in van Gogh's paintings from his stay at Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy, but as some film noir private dick once said, "they ain't singin'."

The art, the music, and most certainly the Stanley Cup have stories they won't tell. They have secrets they couldn't share. They are bigger than our living or dead heroes and villains, in that we have this object in common, but only they are the constant that binds.

For van Gogh, his work holds the secrets of something tragically yet joyfully human, the manifestation from the chemistry of a brain and a soul that communicates still as it hangs on a wall.

For the Stanley Cup, it's anyone's interpretation of what it means when one is near it. It will stand there, glorious and shiny, withholding judgment of its admirers while protecting the stories of those who won it, and teasing those who have not.

It will remain as majestic as the excellence for what it stands.

Thursday night, adults will hunt out their own childhood memories that are engraved upon the trophy, and pose their own baffled children next to it for pictures that will surely be appreciated when the time is right.

And through it all, the Stanley Cup will value what it learns about Thursday's fans the same as it values what it knows about anyone named Gordie, and it will never, ever tell a soul.

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