By Dave Rogers
NEWBURYPORT — The Stanley Cup weighs about 35 pounds, has been kissed by thousands of people over the years and is widely considered to be the most prestigious trophy in all of sports.
And on Saturday evening, some local hockey fans were lucky enough to get a glimpse of it and even kiss it when the cup made an impromptu visit to Michael's Harborside on the Newburyport waterfront for more than an hour.
The Boston Bruins won this year's Stanley Cup championship in June, defeating the Vancouver Canucks in a grueling yet thrilling seven-game series. It was the sixth time the spoked B's have won the cup since its first year in the National Hockey League in 1924.
Per a long-standing tradition, every player and staff member is allowed to keep the cup for a day. Over the years, the cup has been in swimming pools, on mountain peaks and other out-of-the-ordinary places.
For all of Saturday, the trophy was in the hands of Boston Bruins equipment manager and New Hampshire resident Keith Robinson. After taking the cup to his native Tewksbury, Robinson brought it to Michael's Harborside, where he has become a longtime regular since mooring his boat nearby on the Merrimack River.
"It was gracious of him to bring it to Michael's and to the city of Newburyport," Michael's Harborside manager Kris Summit said.
Summit said Robinson set up the visit with general manager Matt Kirk, who then spread the news to his other managers. But the customers inside the restaurant had no idea the Cup would be coming until it was carried on to the lower deck by its National Hockey League-appointed guardians.
About 200 people were able to get up close and personal with the Cup after it was placed outside on the restaurant's tiki deck shortly before 11 p.m. The lower-level deck offered plenty of room for fans waiting in line for their chance to touch it as well as great vantage points for the folks taking in the scene from the deck above.
Summit said the Cup's appearance was kept quiet, per Robinson's request, to avoid a duplication of its appearance in Tewksbury, a fundraiser that drew thousands of people in a short time.
"It was absolutely awesome. Customers were amazingly gracious and organized. Nobody got out of hand; they were so ecstatic to see it," Summit said.
Among those waiting in line for a chance to touch the Cup were Sean Jansen and his wife, Amber, of Salisbury, who heard from a friend that the Cup was in Newburyport.
"I was a little starstruck," Sean Jansen said.
Despite the fact that the Cup's visit was kept on the down low, it didn't take long for photos of the cup's visit to make it onto countless Facebook and Twitter profiles and be sent by email. Jansen said many fans came wearing their Boston Bruins jerseys, showing there has been little letdown in total excitement over the Bruins squad, which won its first Stanley Cup since 1972.