If you see the Stanley Cup somewhere, chances are Philip Pritchard is close by. Countless hockey greats have raised the Stanley Cup over their head, but only the man with the white gloves has the privilege of taking the trophy home night after night.
For more than 28 years Pritchard has been an integral part of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto serving as both curator and keeper of the Stanley Cup. A Durham College alumnus, Pritchard graduated from DC’s Sports Management program in 1985.
Pritchard takes great joy in pointing just how many hockey fans there are, including the Queen of England.
“I’m always thrilled that everyone’s a hockey fan, it makes it special,” he says. “I got the opportunity to meet Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The Queen is a hockey fan. She has a huge collection. When she comes to Canada she gets many pucks and souvenirs that she keeps.”
He began his journey to the cup with a diploma in administration before crossing over to sports.
“I started by taking accounting at Sheridan College in Oakville. From then I took the accounting over to the sports side of things and went to Durham College,” says the Oakville native.
It was the placements opportunities provided by Durham College that allowed Pritchard to work his way up to a job at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“The great thing about Durham is the co-op program that they offer placement. It gives students a chance to gain practical experience,” he explains. “My placement was with the Ontario Hockey League. I then ended up working at the Canadian Hockey League and from there I went to the Hockey Hall of Fame where I’ve been since ‘88.”
Pritchard managed to land what many would acknowledge is a dream job by building his network and creating connections, a skill he deems essential.
“You can never stress it enough but in the sports world it’s a small community. Everybody knows everybody. The more people you know and respect, the better it works out,” he says.
A little bit of luck and good timing also helps.
“If you talk to my wife she would say I was in a wrong place at the wrong time, I would say I was at the right place at the right time,” says Pritchard with a laugh.
A typical week for Pritchard involves promoting hockey, either on the road or at the Hall of Fame in Toronto.
“Being the curator, I look after all things hockey at the hall; the displays, artifacts, archives and trophies including the Stanley Cup. Amazingly hockey seems to run 12 months a year now. The focus is always on promoting and preserving the sport,” he says.
Lord Stanley’s trophy is on the road most of the year, as such, the keeper of the cup spends a good chunk of the year travelling.
“This past year we’ve travelled in five countries. [The cup] is on the road close to 300 days a year. We get probably 700-800 requests for the cup in a year, from charities to peewee teams. There’s always somebody on the road with the cup. We understand that not everyone can come to the hall, sometimes we go to them.”
Pritchard (right) a HHOF official holding Lord Stanley’s trophy.
What does that mean for the team that wins the cup each year?
“The winning team gets the cup for 100 days during the summer from the day they win the cup to the beginning of the next season in October. During that time each player and staff gets to take it to their hometown, families and friends,” he says.
Outrageous tales of NHLers spending a day with the cup are plenty, but players tend to be respectful of the trophy’s history and tradition, says the keeper of the cup.
“Once you hear what they want to do with it… It all has something to do with their culture. They all have such respect for it. They’re all different but it all means so much to the guys,” he says.
Other than taking a sip from the cup once at the conclusion of the 1997 Stanley Cup finals, Pritchard has always treated handling the trophy with respect.
“I don’t want to get involved with a conflict of interest. Sure, I have friends and family that have seen it, but at the end of the day it is one of Canada’s greatest icons,” says Pritchard.
Pritchard offers final advice to students and sports fans.
“If you love your job you never work a day in your life. I’m one of those people.”