The Keeper of the Cup
On January 6, 2023, hockey’s top prize the Stanley Cup was in town at the Worcester Railers game for hockey fans around Massachusetts to get the opportunity to take a photo, hug, and even kiss. Seeing or even touching the cup is sometimes a once in a lifetime experience for the common hockey fan but an everyday job for Howie Borrow, who along with about four other handlers, is tasked with the job of traveling with the cup. Though it is typically Phil Pritchard who presents the cup at major NHL events and to the cup winning team one of Howie’s favorite moments was presenting the cup with Phil at the Colorado Avalanche banner raising on October 12, 2022.
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to spend time with Howie while he oversaw the line of people that wrapped around the concourse to see the Cup. Howie started as a volunteer at the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004, was an official employee a couple months later, and then was asked by Phil to travel not only with the Stanley Cup but with all of hockey’s top trophies such as the Conn Smyth and the Presidents’ Trophy in 2009. Since then, Howie has accompanied the Cup on trips such as Ovechkin’s trip back to Moscow in 2018 and Finland with Tuukka Rask in 2011. The Stanley Cup also makes a lot of promotional appearances throughout North America which means Howie spends a lot of his time at hockey games but ironically not a lot of time watching them.
Traveling with the Cup comes with a busy schedule and a tight itinerary which means not a lot of room for flight delays and traffic jams. Of course, I had to ask if any airlines had lost the Stanley Cup before to which Howie responded, “It’s definitely happened a couple times where the Cup somehow didn’t end up on the plane, but it’s always located and arrived in a timely manner.” A feeling that can be very nerve wracking when overseeing the oldest existing trophy to be awarded professionally in North America but that is why even the Stanley Cup has insurance.
I also took the time to get to know Howie as Howie Borrow and not just the keeper. He is a Boston Bruins fan and was lucky enough to accompany the team in their celebrations at Boston when they won the Staley Cup in 2011 where he showed me a photo of him and young Chara. Being a Bruins fan is what started his career, “I started volunteering in 2004 because one the inductees that year was Ray Bourque and then I stayed until the next year in 2005 when one of the inductees was Cam Neely.” A full circle moment for Howie was when Upper Deck had made a stack of hockey cards for all the keepers for them to keep for family and friends and his was a photo of him with the Cup in the Bruins locker room in 2011.
I also asked him what it’s like to be a keeper, “At first I was really shy I didn’t talk to a lot of people which works out pretty ok because everyone is busy with the Cup.” That was such an interesting concept to me just because after spending almost a full hour talking to Howie, we had discussed everything from players trips to how he was also accompanying the Cup to Princeton before heading back to Toronto, that all I could think is how amazing the opportunity it was speak to Howie and to hear stories that not even the cup could tell.