Stanley Cup Keeper Discusses Visiting San Jose for NHL All-Star Game

SAN JOSE -- There was already a decent line forming at NHL All-Star Fan Fair on Friday morning in San Jose as fans clamored to get their photo taken alongside the most coveted prize in all of hockey.

The Stanley Cup, in all its glory, was posted up on a large stage looking out onto a mini-museum in the middle of the concourse where the NHL's trophies and old team memorabilia were displayed in glass cases. Fans could weave their way through displays of California Seals sweaters and the Vezina Trophy, among other things, on their way to taking their picture with the Cup.

At least -- that's what most of those fans in line probably thought the game's majestic and mysterious prize is called.

"The coolest thing about it is that nowhere on there does it say 'the Stanley Cup,'" Philip Pritchard, the Hockey Hall of Fame's official keeper of the Cup, told NBC Sports California. "It's just become a nickname over time. The Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup is its official name. A great trivia question is 'tell me the real name of the Stanley Cup.'"

This weekend marks Pritchard's second visit to San Jose with Lord Stanley's Mug, including a stint in 2016 when the Sharks hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Cup Final. In these two quick visits Pritchard, who has been handling the Cup since the late 1980s, has a pretty good idea of what hockey fandom in San Jose is all about. 

"You know what I think is amazing about San Jose hockey fans? They're very loyal to their teal and white," Pritchard observed. "I remember during the Final when (the Sharks) were playing Pittsburgh, you walk around town and there are the 'Sharks Territory' signs everywhere."

That's nice praise coming from someone who has traveled all over, spreading knowledge about the league and its prized trophy to devoted hockey fans far and wide. It wasn't that long ago, in fact, that Pritchard was busy traveling the globe as the Washington Capitals' players had their turns with the Cup.

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"They had a truly global team," he said. "They had guys from seven different countries. So besides guys all across the US and Canada, we were in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, all across Russia into Siberia, and the Czech Republic. We were all over the world, and to celebrate the game of hockey in that many countries is pretty special."

Of course, having the Cup back in San Jose for the All-Star festivities is a different scene than it was during a Final, given the vibe on All-Star weekend is more commemorative. 

"It's more of a celebration than anything else," Pritchard said of the All-Star festivities. "All 32 teams fans including the Seattle fans are all here. It's great because people get to meet one another, which is a great social experience for everyone. 

"I think that's what's great about hockey. It doesn't matter what age or what level of hockey interest you have, there's something there."

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The Cup has visited San Jose City Hall and Apple so far on its stay in Silicon Valley and has a couple more engagements before hitting the road again. "You spend a lot of nights in hotels," Pritchard said with a slight sigh. "Everyone that travels knows this -- hotel beds aren't the best thing in the world."

Not that he's complaining. Pritchard clearly loves taking the Cup all over and pointing things out that fans may not know.

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