The Stanley Cup was eaten. Thankfully not the original one but only its sweet copy prepared by a local pastry shop in Frydek-Mistek, a Silesian town in the eastern part of the Czech Republic where Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ondrej Palat welcomed the trophy Wednesday.
A cake with grey icing the same size as the Cup was shown to more than a thousand fans on the main square of Palat’s hometown. The line for an autograph, a photo with the Cup and its winner, and a piece of ‘Cup-cake’ started to build up two hours before Palat and the trophy arrived at the square.
After that, Palat brought the Cup to the local arena Polarka where he showed it to dozens of young hockey players from Frydek-Mistek.
“It was quite tough to carry the Cup around town all day but these are beautiful moments and no piece of my body hurts,” Palat said at the ice rink. “I think I signed a couple of thousand autographs today. It is a busy day today but to bring the Stanley Cup here in Frydek has been my dream and I am really enjoying it right now.”
The Stanley Cup was brought to the Czech Republic from Slovakia in a helicopter that flew over the Tatra mountains from Kosice, where defenseman Erik Cernak enjoyed his day with the Cup on Monday. As there was a delay before coming to Kosice, Cernak asked Palat to let him have the trophy a bit later in the morning and as both players have the same agent Robert Spalenka, he arranged to speed up the trip, originally planned by car, by hiring a chopper.
After the two public events in Frydek-Mistek were over, Palat took the Stanley Cup to the nearby mountain resort Celadna for a private party where his Lightning teammate Jan Rutta was invited with some other friends, among them former NHL defenseman Roman Polak.
“Erik (Cernak) ate the Szegedin goulash from the Cup, I wanted to have the same meal but he was first, so I have to think of something else,” Palat said before the party. “But I am sure there will be a lot of champagne and beer in the Cup.”
Thursday morning, Rutta will take the Stanley Cup to his hometown Pisek and later to Prague. Interestingly, the Stanley Cup will visit the same Czech cities as in 2004 when the Lightning won it for the first time.
Defenseman Pavel Kubina brought the Cup to his village Janovice just outside of Frydek-Mistek and a 13-year old Palat was there to see it as a fan. Defenseman Stan Neckar then brought the Cup to Pisek where a 14-year old kid Rutta went to see it as a fan too.
Now, 17 years later, the Stanley Cup gets back to the same places, this time thanks to Palat and Rutta who have followed the footsteps of Kubina and Neckar. No other Czech player aside from these four has ever won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning.
“It is a fun coincidence that it is Tampa and these two cities again,” Palat said. “I know I was around when the Stanley Cup was here (in 2004). But what I remember the most is that I had been watching the whole playoffs that year and I had cheered for Tampa. This was kind of the beginning for me where I said to myself: ‘It would be nice to win it one day, too’. For me, it was not only Pavel Kubina but also Martin St. Louis who was one of my favorite players. That’s why I liked the Lightning along with Pittsburgh the most.”
On Friday, the trophy will head to Sweden for the day with defenseman Victor Hedman. After that, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and forward Nikita Kucherov will have their days with the Cup in Russia.