Should the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the San Jose Sharks tonight — or on Sunday night, or next Wednesday; they have earned the wiggle room to take their pick — one of the craziest Stanley Cup stories will be Matt Murray’s. With starter Marc-Andre Fleury sidelined following a concussion, Murray wound up in net in Game 3 of the first-round series against the Rangers. And with the exception of one Fleury start, Murray has stayed put, amassing a 14–5 record and .925 save percentage. He now has more NHL playoff wins than regular-season starts in his career. He is being compared with Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy.
Imagine how this must feel! No, not for Murray (dude’s psyched, that’s obvious), but for Fleury. The 31-year-old goalie will most likely have his name engraved on a Stanley Cup for the second time, but with this one coming under much stranger circumstances than the first: In 2009, Fleury was a 24-year-old hotshot; this time around, he’s rumored to be on the trading block. This isn’t to say that the man didn’t contribute to this season in a big way, or that he won’t probably wind up champagne-soaked and thrilled when all’s said and done. But it’s a reminder that not every name hammered into the Stanley Cup is easy shorthand for a storybook victory. Over the years, for reasons ranging from hubris to head injuries, there have been line items on the trophy that don’t tell the full story. Here are a few:
Dale Tallon: Some guys might feel a little awkward celebrating a championship with a team that fired them before a championship run, but former Chicago GM (and current Florida president of hockey operations) Dale Tallon has always been up for a party. Tallon, who had a large hand in building the Blackhawks roster that beat Philadelphia in 2010, had expressed interest in a ring (rings are doled out more cavalierly than names on the Cup) and was rewarded with both. He also flew to Chicago “to celebrate with his former players — meeting them at a hotel pool bar for a drink out of the Cup.” Bottom’s up!
Adam Deadmarsh: The Colorado Avalanche winger cried when he saw that his name had been misspelled “Deadmarch,” even though that is a great description of the NHL playoffs. This marked the first time a mistake on the Cup was fixed.
XXXXX XXXXXXXXXXX: Former Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington is a man who basically sold Wayne Gretzky, was once held hostage in his own house, and lied under oath in bankruptcy proceedings. Is it any surprise that he snuck his old man’s name onto the Cup? When the Oilers submitted their list of names for the 1984 championship, Pocklington’s dad, Basil, was one of them. Later, when the league found out, it had the silversmith deal with it by stamping a huge set of XXX’s over the name. It’s kind of the Immortan Joe of chalice engravings.
Marc Savard: This one is bittersweet. Marc Savard, whose career was effectively ended by a concussion in 2010, didn’t meet the qualifications to have his name on the Cup when the Boston Bruins won it in 2011: 41 regular-season games (he had 25) or at least one game played in the Cup final. But the Bruins successfully petitioned the league to get his name etched in.
Mike Keenan: The New York Rangers coach was actively wheeling and dealing with other teams late into the 1994 playoffs, so it’s no surprise he bolted almost immediately after the Rangers won the Cup. Keenan’s departure was so abrupt that he never even got to spend his allotted day with the trophy, even though his name is forever enshrined.
Martin Gerber: Behind every breakout backup goalie is a frustrated starting netminder, and Gerber was in Fleury’s shoes in 2006. After recording a franchise-best 38 regular-season wins with the Hurricanes, Gerber struggled in the opening round and Cam Ward passed him right on by. Gerber signed with the Ottawa Senators a few weeks later.
ASS MAN: “My dad was a very religious man,” Frank Selke Jr. told the Edmonton Journal in 2009, “and that kind of statement would have bothered him.” (Junior said his dad never brought it up, either because he didn’t know about it or didn’t like it.) Selke’s dad, Frank Sr., was an assistant general manager with the 1945 champion Toronto Maple Leafs — a title that the Stanley Cup engraver interpreted on the Stanley Cup as “ASS MAN.” Selke’s son was sure that his dad wouldn’t be happy about it, but I think maybe he was just jealous: According to the Journal, an assistant trainer on that same 1945 team was forever remembered as “ASS TRAIN.”
2004–05 SEASON NOT PLAYED: Too bad, so sad.