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Keeping an eye on the Cup

Stanley Cup questions? You can't stump Mike Bolt.

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
Published May 9, 2004

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Mike Bolt knows a lot about the Stanley Cup. Kind of like how a bodyguard knows a lot about the person he protects. You pick up little details when it's your job to escort and protect something that makes virtually everyone happy - and grabby.

So as one of three official "Keepers of the Cup," the Knights Templar of the Hockey Hall of Fame who protect and direct the trophy around the world for promotional stops and appearances, Bolt, 35, is as adept at Cup trivia as he is knowing when the guy sloshing his supersized Labatts is about to try to hoist the hardware.

Bolt knows how many players from the 1940s-era ring on the trophy still are living, how the Hall corrected Manny Legace's misspelled name in 2002, that Canadians like to look at the Cup first, then take a picture while Americans do the opposite. And he knows how many 12-ounce beers the bowl portion of the Cup will hold.

How does he know this? The beer part, that is.

Each player on a newly minted Stanley Cup champion gets 24 hours with the Cup during the summer. Bolt and Walt Neubrand chaperone the Cup during the visits. The main two rules: no strip clubs, no casinos - "We really want to let the guys have fun. They've earned it; we only ask to keep it respectful," Bolt said - but virtually anything else within reason goes. A few years ago one player (whose anonymity Bolt protects) elected, as many do, to have a celebratory toast from the trophy. Fourteen beers fit - cool. Thing is, once that silver trophy started tipping, it unleashed a pilsner tsunami.

"Rookie mistake," Bolt said, laughing. "They filled the thing to the top and some girl went to drink out of it, and she just got soaked."

Though many have tried, you don't get Bolt's job filling out an application. He first took a position at the Hall of Fame in 1995 working the floor, then was recommended by a superior for an opening as a Keeper.

"I didn't even know they'd consider me or were considering me," Bolt said. "I just knew it must be a pretty cool job."

Cool and busy. The Stanley Cup spends more than 300 days a year on the road. That's a lot of flights, and a lot of chances for an irreplaceable trophy - though it is insured for about $1-million - to get lost. It has missed a few connecting flights, most scary, Bolt said, when he was returning with it from Europe a few years ago, but a tough molded case and patience has kept the Cup safe and secure.

It's kind of like being a Secret Service agent, with white formal gloves instead of sunglasses and a revolver.

"Well, the president is a human being and a little more powerful than the Stanley Cup," he said. "But I've heard that reference before. I guess the difference is no one ever hates the Stanley Cup. I definitely would have the same feeling, that little pit in the bottom of my stomach when it does happen."

After escorting it to stops around Tampa and St. Petersburg this weekend, Bolt will fly with it to San Jose, then Philadelphia and Calgary. On this leg of the final four swing, Bolt has taken on a new role: presumptive omen. Bolt, as in lightning. Get it?

"That's pretty hilarious," he said, laughing. "I've been getting that a lot the last three or four days."

Hey, everybody wants to be buddies with the Cup's best friend.

- On the Fly focuses on people, events and scenes around the game.

[Last modified May 9, 2004, 01:41:11]

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