Jean Beliveau will not be a part of the Vince Lombardi Trophy presentation following this year's Super Bowl. But, a tradition he helped create will have an influence on how the NFL is trying to make championship ceremonies part of their overall event.
Evan Weiner | NHL.com correspondent
Jan 27, 2007, 12:00 PM EST
Neither Ted Lindsay nor Jean Beliveau will be part of the National Football League's Vince Lombardi Trophy presentation on Feb. 4 following this year's Super Bowl clash between the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts in South Florida. But the NFL is either knowingly or unknowingly paying homage to Lindsay, Beliveau, and all the other NHL captains who have been summoned by various NHL Presidents and Commissioner Gary Bettman to come on over and claim the Stanley Cup for winning the league's championship series.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the NFL plans to showcase the Lombardi Trophy in a much more elaborate ceremony than it has in the past. Championship trophy presentations are no longer just TV shows in the winner's dressing room. The NFL's thinking is just another example of how leagues borrow concepts from one another. The NHL is the undisputed leader in making its championship ceremonies a major part of the overall event.
The first on ice Cup awarding ceremony took place in Toronto in 1932. It wasn't until the 1990s that other team sports caught up.
Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the NFL have all moved their championship trophy presentations out of the locker room and onto the diamond, the court and the gridiron so that those in attendance can also take part in the celebration. The NHL's Stanley Cup presentation has taken place on the rink for decades and it was Ted Lindsay who added panache to the ceremony. Lindsay, the Red Wings captain, took Hockey's Holy Grail for a victory lap after Detroit beat the New York Rangers in overtime in the seventh game to win the 1950 Stanley Cup.
It's a hockey tradition that has caught on in other sports.
Beliveau's last hockey game in 1971 ended with him taking the victory lap around the ice while hoisting the Stanley Cup high over his head after his Montreal Canadiens defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in the seventh game. Beliveau then handed off the Cup to waiting teammates for all to share in the experience.
Generally the team captain is the first player to hoist the Cup, but in 1998, Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman gave the Cup to injured defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov in his wheelchair and the Red Wings as a team followed the fallen defenseman around the rink. In 2001, Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic handed the Cup over to retiring defenseman Ray Bourque to hoist over his head. The celebration capped Bourque's 22-year Hall of Fame career.
The National Football League, along with other leagues, has a long way to go before it can capture the same type of tradition that comes with 75 years of pomp and ceremony.
The NHL's ceremony starts with both teams lining up for a handshake after the game and series has concluded. Then the carpet is roiled out, the Conn Smythe Trophy is giving to the series most valuable player and then North American's sports most famous trophy makes its way out.
The Lombardi Trophy, the National Basketball Association's Larry O'Brien Trophy and Major League Baseball's World Series Trophy are nice pieces of hardware, but the Stanley Cup is legendary and comes with myths and tales that sometimes are hard to believe.
The Cup is a living and breathing entity bigger than life itself.
"Yes in Chicago in 1971, I was very happy. It was my 10th one (Stanley Cup) and it was a crowning of a long career," said Beliveau, the first winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1965.
But there is something about the presentation that adds to the festivities. Beliveau remembered just how excited he was when NHL President Clarence Campbell called him to pick up the Cup.
"It's always a special feeling and I was glad to receive it on behalf of all my teammates and skate around with it," said the long time Canadiens captain and the Hockey Hall of Fame member. "Somebody told me I was one of the first ones to do it. The purpose of skating around was to bring the Cup closer to the fans. That was my only purpose."
Beliveau had a lot of time to observe Stanley Cup rituals. He was part of Montreal's five straight Stanley Cup championship teams between 1956 and 1960 when Maurice Richard captained the Habs. Beliveau's first time that he hoisted the Cup as Montreal's captain came in 1965. The Canadiens would also win in 1966, 1968 and 1969, making it four times in five years. Toronto defeated the Canadiens in six games in the 1967 Final.
The 1980-83 Islanders won four straight Cups, and had a chance at a fifth, but were defeated by Edmonton, much to the relief of Beliveau and members of the 1956-60 Canadiens. They wanted the record to themselves.
"There is no doubt about it, we were pretty proud. We had a great bunch of guys working together towards a common goal which was first place and the Stanley Cup," he said. "I think its going to be difficult in the future for the simple reason there is no franchise who can keep the heart of their team."
The heart of the Canadiens was Maurice Richard, but there were more. Beliveau, Boom Boom Geoffrion, Henri Richard, Dickie Moore, Bert Olmstead, Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson and Jacques Plante ended up in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The Canadiens' role players could have been stars on other teams.
"It's always nice to win the Stanley Cup and we had pretty well had the same team through those five years," he recalled. "You never get tired of winning the Cup. We were able to pull together and each year when the playoffs started we had only one thing in mind, winning the Stanley Cup."