Surf's up for the Stanley Cup in Sea Isle

John Stevens (right), former Flyers coach and current LA Kings assistant coach, brought the Stanley Cup, won by the Kings this year, to the beach in Sea Isle City July 16, 2014 for hockey fans to get an up close and personal look at the trophy. Stevens has a photo taken with NHL referee Brad Watson and his kids, vacationing in Sea Isle from their home in Denver. ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer )
John Stevens (right), former Flyers coach and current LA Kings assistant coach, brought the Stanley Cup, won by the Kings this year, to the beach in Sea Isle City July 16, 2014 for hockey fans to get an up close and personal look at the trophy. Stevens has a photo taken with NHL referee Brad Watson and his kids, vacationing in Sea Isle from their home in Denver. ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer )
Posted: July 19, 2014

SEA ISLE CITY, N.J. - The Stanley Cup arrived Thursday morning in the back of John Stevens' truck. The Cup had flown into Philadelphia International Airport the night before from its previous stop in Russia.

By 11 a.m., the Cup was at Sea Isle's 57th Street beach, a day-tripper (no beach tag required), causing a scene as it rested for a couple of hours on a lifeguard boat.

Since every player and coach who wins the Stanley Cup gets possession of the trophy for a day, this was Stevens' time. The former Flyers head coach, now a Los Angeles Kings assistant, said that after the Kings won their first title in 2012, he brought the Cup to his hometown in Ontario, sharing it with his parents and others there. This time, he said, the immediate thought was to bring it to the Shore.

"We raised our kids here," said Sandy Stevens, John's wife, speaking of the Philadelphia area. "We lived here for 16 years."

They bought a place in Sea Isle in 2009, so this is still their summer home. This is their beach, Stevens said. On Thursday, it was packed - a line formed halfway to Avalon. Occasionally, a Flyers chant broke out since the line was filled with people wearing Flyers jerseys.

This has become one of our more peculiar local rituals: former Flyers, cast out by the organization, bringing the Cup to what they still consider their offseason home. This time Stevens shared it, joining fans who haven't glimpsed it firsthand after a Flyers title in nearly four decades.

Nobody was grumbling about its being there.

"Are you kidding?" said Len Messina of Skippack, who had skipped the line and gone around to the ocean side to grab a selfie with the Cup in the background.

"You never know when Philadelphia is going to win it," said Tom Brown of Westville, Gloucester County, who spent 90 minutes in the line. "I'm glad to see it."

Brad Watson, an NHL referee vacationing nearby, stopped by with his family to take a photo. In addition to the Flyers jerseys, there were T-shirts touting Princeton wrestling, Penn State field hockey, Kentucky basketball. Someone in a Kobe Bryant jersey got a photo. A father had a Papelbon Phillies shirt, his son a Lecavalier Flyers jersey.

"Touch the Cup, touch the Cup," said Sea Isle City Mayor Lenny Desiderio, part usher, part carnival barker, to Nick Small, a 23-year-old from Yardley. But Small wouldn't touch it as he got his photo.

"I'm a hockey player," Small said. "You can't touch it unless you win it. Everybody knows that."

It made no difference that Small plays in an adult league. These Stanley Cup traditions are sacred rituals.

After the public viewing, Stevens said, he was going to bring it home to lunch with his family. They'd already stopped at the Fish Alley sign for a photo, and had stopped at the Art Museum steps in Philly before bringing it to the Shore. His 20-year-old son, John, had flown in for this. Other relatives were at the beach, too.

Stevens planned to bring it to another private get-together Thursday night in Atlantic City, he said, then he would hand it off to Justin Williams, another former Flyer, who would have it in Ventnor on Friday morning, then bring it to his own Canadian hometown for the rest of his 24 hours with it.

"Selfishly," Stevens said, "I'd like to take it and lock myself in a room and read [the names engraved on] it all day. But it's so great to share it with people."

He mingled with those who had gotten their photos taken with the Cup.

"We're neighbors," one lady told him, pointing to her boys. "They're the ones playing paddle ball, making all the noise."

"Let's go find Jeff Carter," a teenager said to a friend after their photo. They'd heard, correctly, that the Kings center and former Flyer also was back in town at his place.

Just down the beach from the Cup, Tom and Deb Doyle of Willow Grove and their friends Scott and Jocelyn Schermerhorn of Abington, who pride themselves on big-time and intricate sand-castle building, went with a hockey theme. They did a huge goalie's mask, a stick, and the NHL logo, creating their own tourist attraction. Took them four hours, they said.

Just after noon, the mayor knew everybody couldn't get his or her photo by 12:30. The line was still too long. The mayor announced that they would drive the Cup slowly along the line in a four-wheeler so everyone could get a photo. Stevens jumped on the back.

Ray Kresge, a young guy from Center City, was next in line when it was cut off. He shrugged and took out his phone to grab a photo as the Cup rolled by. In some ways, Kresge was the most legitimate guy there, since he at least wore a Los Angeles Kings hat. He said he'd become a Kings fan after some of his favorite Flyers players landed there.

Kresge held a surfboard under his right arm.

"I figured I'd surf while I was here," he said just after the Cup had left the beach.


mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus

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