Matt Niskanen lifts the Stanley Cup from a protective case under the watchful eye of one of two "hockey hall of fame Keepers of the Cup" Sunday morning. The keepers travel everywhere the Stanley Cup goes to ensure the safety of the historic trophy.

VIRGINIA — One of the most famous pieces of sports hardware ever is internationally known, is 126 years old, has more than 4,500 names on it, weighs 35 pounds and is 97 percent silver and 3 percent nickel.

Just the sight of the trophy opens up doors, including meeting celebrities, getting back stage at rock concerts and more.

If you guessed it is the Stanley Cup, you are right.

The cup is so well known and so valuable that the Hall of Fame in Toronto employs keepers of the cup to make sure the NHL’s championship trophy gets to its destination safety, stays safe and is treated respectfully.

Keepers of the cup Mike Bolt and Howie Borrow brought the iconic trophy to Virginia Sunday as Matt Niskanen, Washington Capitals defenseman and 2018 cup winner, shared it with the citizens of the Iron Range and beyond.

More than 2,000 fans got their picture with Niskanen and the cup at the Miners Memorial Arena Sunday and made sure to touch the one-of-a-kind trophy.

What makes the Stanley Cup so unique and gets hockey fans (and most people) so excited?

“Unlike any other trophy, this is the same trophy year after year,’’ Bolt said at the Miners Sunday morning. “So whether you’re a Washington Capitals fan’’ or any other team ... “this represents all of hockey.’’

The Stanley Cup’s historical past attracts hockey fans and people in all walks of life.

“That draws them out here. Whereas the other leagues don’t have that,’’ according to Bolt, who said baseball, for example, has a new trophy each year. “This means something to every hockey fan around. That’s the great thing. It’s the history behind it. It’s the adventures this thing’s had. It really is the biggest rock star in the game. ... It’s more famous than our players and in some ways more famous than the game.’’

The cup is so old that the rings on the trophy are completely filled with names of the Stanley Cup-winning teams.

To alleviate that, Bolt said a ring with names from 1954-1966 will be taken off and inducted into the HOF in September. The remaining rings will all be moved up and a new ring put on the bottom. That is where the Capitals’ names will be for the next 65 years, he added.

Bolt and Borrow often take the cup through airports, and ultimately have to open the case it is transported for security reasons.

Once people get a look at it, they automatically want to document the moment.

Bolt said people tell him they aren’t hockey fans, but they still ask to “get a picture with the cup.’’ They want a picture because “that’s how famous it is.’’

The cup has been on a lot of adventures and visited 26 different countries. The next planned international journey is to Denmark, Bolt said, where the cup has never been before.

For Niskanen’s day with the cup (an NHL tradition), the trophy was at the Miners, Flaimer’s Bar in Virginia and taken on a Lake Vermilion fishing trip.

The players all treat the cup well, said Bolt.

“The guys are great. They have so much respect for the cup. They get the magnitude of this. It’s everybody else around we have to keep in line.’’ He added that fans are respectful for the most part, as well.

Bringing the cup to places like Virginia just reinforces what the historic hardware means to the hockey community, according to Bolt.

“These young kids that are playing hockey know that maybe a dream can come true. I can make it to the NHL out of a small town and maybe win the cup one day and get to bring it home. That’s the great thing about the tradition of bringing it home. It shows everybody, especially the young kids that are playing, that dreams can come true.’’


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