Only one mo­ment that mat­ters

Play­ers know lift­ing Cup will make up for all the sac­ri­fices they made on way to fi­nal


PITTS­BURGH— When Pen­guins winger Chris Ku­nitz got his day with the Stan­ley Cup last summer, he brought it home to Regina. It wasn’t so much win­ning the Cup for him­self that mat­tered, it was what it meant to oth­ers close to him, the look in the eyes when they saw it up close: his fam­ily, his friends, his for­mer coaches.

“You don’t sit down and just hang out with it. You pack­age your day to do as much as pos­si­ble be­cause you want to share it with so many peo­ple that have helped you through­out your ca­reer,” Ku­nitz said Sun­day.

“That’s the most re­ward­ing part, to have a mite hockey coach come out and take a pic­ture with you, and know he had a pos­i­tive ef­fect on your life and how you got here.”

The Pen­guins are back in the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal, against the Nashville Preda­tors, start­ing Mon­day night (8. p.m., CBC).

The Pen­guins have a chance to win two Cups in a row, a feat that hasn’t hap­pened since the Detroit Red Wings went back to back in 1997 and 1998.

Much is be­ing said that Ku­nitz, Sid­ney Crosby, Ev­geni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and in­jured de­fence­man Kris Le­tang — all on Pitts­burgh’s 2009 Cup-win­ning team — have a chance to get their names en­graved on the chal­ice a third time, eclips­ing the Mario Lemieux-era Pen­guins. But these things don’t mat­ter to play­ers.

“I don’t look at it as far as com­par­ing num­bers of Cups,” Crosby said. “He (Lemieux) has two as an owner, two as a player. I look at it as a great op­por­tu­nity to be back here. It’s not easy to get here . . . We knew it would be dif­fi­cult, that there would be a lot of ob­sta­cles, but we found a way. It’s up to us to do some­thing with it.”

For the play­ers, win­ning the Cup is not about their per­sonal lega­cies. It’s about the Cup it­self.

“My record is Cups,” Malkin said. “I don’t think about points. It’s the team. Win back to back. My fo­cus is on win­ning. It’s hard. Ev­ery game, you lose five pounds. You’re emo­tion­ally spent. It’s al­ways hard.”

The Stan­ley Cup is125 years old this year, just 25 years younger than Canada. Its dents, mis­spellings and the var­i­ous ways it has been treated and mis­treated by its vic­tors have been fea­tured promi­nently this sea­son in TV ads pro­mot­ing hockey.

“If that thing could speak, the stories it could tell,” Crosby said. “See­ing all the names on it, and what it rep­re­sents when you look at . . . It com­mands at­ten­tion. What guys have gone through, and played through, to get it. The ex­pe­ri­ences with it af­ter . . . the joy that comes along with win­ning it.”

That’s why the Pen­guins want to win it again. That’s why the Preda­tors want to win it for a first time.

No Preda­tor has tasted beer, cham­pagne or, for that mat­ter, ce­real from the sil­ver bowl of the Stan­ley Cup. They haven’t had a new­born sit in it. They haven’t thrown it in a pool. They haven’t left it at the side of the road.

But they each want to raise it, to have their day with it, to have their names on it, to make their his­tory with it. “Two of the most mem­o­rable points in my life (are my) two trips to the fi­nals,” said Nashville coach Peter Lavi­o­lette, who won the Cup coach­ing Carolina and lost it as coach of the Fly­ers. “One of them I’ll hold close to my heart, and one of them hurts. But that’s a great feel­ing, to be able to be here and to com­pete.”

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