Aspen goes Cup Crazy
In the afternoon snowfall Sunday, a tiny tent offered little shelter for a crowd gathered at the base of Aspen Mountain.
The tent erected in the middle of the gondola plaza should have been the display area for the NHL’s Stanley Cup from noon to 3 p.m. yesterday. But for most of the afternoon, the cup was a no-show, and hockey fans hoping for a snapshot of the trophy were beginning to grumble.
The reason for the delay: a storm turned Texas into an ice rink.
Craig Campbell, curator at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and weekend chaperone for the legendary trophy, was in Lubbock Sunday morning for a flight to Denver.
But ice storms hit Texas, delaying flights and hindering all traffic from the south.
“We were on the tarmac twice only to have the flight canceled,” Campbell said.
The cup arrived in Denver early Sunday afternoon, but problems with a deicing machine caused further delays. Wily Manering, a coach and player for the Trashmen of Aspen, the local elite men’s hockey team, said the cup was finally escorted to Aspen by way of a private jet.
Once the cup landed, the viewing venue was changed to the Hotel Jerome to accommodate the puckheads waiting for a look at the legendary trophy.
The Jerome was an ideal place for the showing, since the hotel had hosted a weekend full of events connected to the “Road to the NHL All-Star Game: Big Time Hockey in a Small Mountain Town” charity event, said campaign coordinator Susan Hunke.
“It demonstrates the spirit of the whole weekend: can-do no matter what the odds,” she said.
The Jerome was bright with camera flashes from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday as fans posed with a piece of hockey history. Hunke said she had collected $500-$600 during the first hour of photos, meaning large donations for Neighbor to Neighbor, the beneficiary of the charity weekend.
The cup will leave Aspen early today for Denver and a week of display for the NHL all-star festivities. After 10 years with the Hockey Hall of Fame, Campbell knows what kind of crowd the cup will draw upon its arrival.
“It’s an icon in the world of sports. Even a casual hockey fan or sports fan understands what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s passed from greats to greats. To the players, it means an awful lot to see their heroes on the cup.”
The cup can mean just as much to fans. Fresh from their victory over a Vail junior hockey team earlier that day, 9-year-olds Cody Vickery and Frederick Newton dashed through the halls of the Jerome Sunday afternoon, rattling off the names of players they spotted on the Stanley Cup’s silver tiers. Their favorite names on the cup, of course, were the Colorado Avalanche players of the 1995-96 season. But the boys know a few other names they hope to see engraved on the trophy one day.
“We really love hockey. We want to play in the NHL, but we don’t know if we’ll make it,” Newton said.
“Even if we don’t, at least we got to see the cup.”
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A driver looking to squeeze one last four-wheel drive up Aspen Mountain discovered that it’s not the ascent but the decent that poses a challenge.