Ed. Note - Proving once again that Blackhawk Nation stretches across oceans, I present to you reader and ex-pat furryogre's recap of Cristobal Huet's day with the Cup in Grenoble, France. As we've seen throughout the whole goalie ordeal, Cris has handled the situation with more grace and dignity than could have possibly been expected, and it's nice to see that he's still appreciated somewhere. --McClure
The Stanley Cup in Grenoble
Though I think it’s pretty certain that tomorrow’s event at the Eiffel Tower will provide the most news-worthy article and the more prestigious photos, I wanted to share my brush with the Stanley Cup today with my fellow Hawk fans.
Living in Europe, some of us brave souls endured getting up at 2am every morning to watch games streamed over usually-poor internet feeds. Then we had to watch the parade from thousands of miles away. As much as I would have loved to have gone to a game, I think I was more bummed about missing the parade and the huge party. But, unlike our poor friends in the UK, I received the ultimate stroke of luck – I live a little over an hour from Grenoble, France, the hometown of Cristobal Huet. It was announced a few weeks ago that The Cup would be presented to the city today at the rink of the team where he played his junior hockey.
Having suffered my entire life without being close to the Cup, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I might be kind of alone there, in fact. First of all, its August here, and the country literally shuts down and goes on vacation all of this month (this is much less of an exaggeration than you think.) Secondly, hockey is as much in the sporting consciousness here as curling is in the US: you might hear a blurb once every 4 years when the Olympics rolls around and you’d be hard-pressed to even name a single player.
So I arrived at the rink, which was pretty nice, given that it was the rink used for hockey at the ’68 Winter Olympics. I was there an hour before doors opened, just because I was too freakin’ excited. Once the start time rolled around, I was pleasantly surprised to have about 6-700 people with me (this is my estimate, I’ll see what the news articles say tomorrow). The NHL team most represented in jerseys, hats, t-shirts was a bit of a surprise: Montreal. I’m not sure how to explain this. (You might think, hey it’s in Quebec so that makes sense, but the links between France and Quebec are tenuous at best, other than that they both speak French. I suspect it may have more to do with the fact that it’s the most storied franchise in the NHL; in much the same way, the only MLB stuff you see is the Yankees even though no one wearing the crap could name even one player.) Second was the Hawks but I was the only one there with a jersey of a Hawk player other than Huet. Saw a Flames jersey (Iginla), a couple of Team Canada t-shirts, a Leafs t-shirt, and one guy with a Scum cap. Jerk.
Since I was so early, I got a pretty decent seat. The event kicked off about 20 minutes late, which in France, is still "right-on-time". (Between 10 and 20 minutes late is on time, between 20 and 30 minutes late is "a little late". You ask, what about 10 or less minutes late? If it ever happens, I’ll let you know.) As I expect these things go, it was all about the player and the community and not at all about Chicago or the Blackhawks. The presentation of The Cup was flanked by a couple pee-wee teams, notable citizens and athletes from Grenoble, as well as some of Huet’s old coaches, teammates, etc.
|Presentation of The Cup at the patinoire (skating rink) in Grenoble|
He was introduced by the director of the team, who a) basically thanked Huet for choosing this location as the first place to debut The Cup in France, b) pointed to this as evidence that any young player can achieve the highest awards, and c) with the current contract situation, he offered him a place back on the team! (I have no idea how much the French pro players are paid, if at all. Everyone laughed so it basically confirmed for me my initial thought that this was impossible).
Cristobal took the mike and, as is probably normal with most players when confronted by a huge amount of affection from your friends, family, and community, he lost it before he could get through the first sentence. I don’t think he anticipated that that many people would be there, and I figure 99.9% of the people were there just to see him and that the presence of The Cup was incidental. He thanked a ton of people, talked about the community, and reiterated his belief in helping the young players.
|Addressing the crowd. "uh, could you repeat that in English, please?"|
He then ended up presenting a local children’s hospital with a big check.
|The amount was big too, 20k€, about $27k.|
Then the team announced that they had a surprise for him and raised a banner in his honor, after which he took pictures with his wife in front of it.
|It kind of surprised me that it says "Stanley Cup" in English and not "la Coupe Stanley"|
Which leads us to the announcement that everyone can come shake Huet’s hand and see The Cup up close, and of course, the "good" seat that I had gotten by arriving early turned out to be the furthest possible point away from where the line started. (Does this happen to everyone else or just me?) This part of the event was a fine display of French efficiency and organization. Which means it was "un bordel" (a mess, a disaster). I waited for over an hour in a packed line and in France, "personal space" has no meaning and everyone was increasingly getting frustrated by the lack of movement, so let’s just say that it was not terribly fun. Fortunately, everyone was cool and taking it all in stride.
Anyway, I eventually arrive on the playing surface. Everyone got a signed card of Cristo (real signature in ink). This blew me away! This was a FREE event. He signed almost a thousand autographs FOR FREE? "C’est vâchement impressionant", (that’s pretty impressive).
|This is first class. (Yes, I took a photo of it on my kitchen table, I don't have a scanner!)|
So, he was waiting by The Cup, shook everyone’s hand and posed for pictures. I told him (in French) that I’ve been a Blackhawks fan my whole life and I thanked him. I got two pictures, one with the poster, one without. He told me he had seen the poster when I was in the stands (it was the only one, SO American) and he said that it was a nice gesture. I was so juiced that I was shaking.
|My sign says "After 49 years of waiting, it's here! Thank you!"|
I did NOT touch The Cup and they were shuffling people through there pretty quickly (or else I would have searched for and taken a photo of the 1961 engraving.)
I leave The Cup and start to head out and am stopped by a reporter. I got interviewed for the news. Now, I normally speak pretty decent French, however, it deteriorates when I get excited or nervous. I just saw The Cup after a lifetime of waiting and I’m being interviewed on TV? I was both excited AND nervous so I am sure I butchered my responses and hope that it is not televised. Aside from asking me where I was from, etc, they asked why I came and I said that it was the first time we’d won the league in 49 years and I never imagined it was possible so I had to finally see it. Then they asked if I had known Huet before he came to the NHL and I said No, that I moved to France recently and that I was more there to see The Cup. Before I left, they asked for a close-up of my poster. At least I KNOW the French there is correct! Will it be on TV? "On verra" (we’ll see). With my luck, it will be televised BUT they’ll have to add subtitles to make me intelligible!
(I couldn't get the visual viewer to work, so i had to go straight HTML, which I haven't used in years. Since this is my first fanpost, if I violated any rules, written or unwritten, my apologies.)