This is my favorite time of the year. The Stanley Cup! When the cup was in Duluth one day while we lived there, the line to see it was several hours long. And, some of my southern friends--right now--are asking, "What's the Stanley Cup?" While some of my friends may disagree (if they like), the Stanley Cup is the greatest sport tradition in the world! OK, at least in North America. It was first awarded to the top amateur hockey team in Canada in 1893, and it has been awarded all but two years since, for the past 70 years to the National Hockey League (NHL) champion.
You might ask, "What's so great about it?" Well, here are a few things. First, the same cup is used every year. The winning team keeps it for one year. Oh yeah, and each person on the team gets his name inscribed on the trophy. Second, there's a tradition in the presentation ceremony. I will never forget when Ray Borque was finally on a cup winning team. The captain of the Avalance, Joe Sakic, deferred his right to hoist the cup over his head for the first victory lap and let Borque skate first with the cup in honor of his many years of greatness in the league. I watched that ceremony on TV live. It was an unprecedented act of deference. Even if the visiting team wins, the fans stay for the presentation. It's that important to the hockey fans. Everyone wants to see the Cup presented. Third, there is the hand-shaking tradition. After each playoff game, both teams line up and shake hands. Some hug. Some give congratulatory words.
This brings me to the point of this blog. Last night, after the Washington Capitols dispatched the defending champion Boston Bruins in overtime, Boston goalie Tim Thomas said to the Caps' goalie Braden Holtby, "Great job, kid." Tim Thomas is 38 years old, and voted the best goalie in the league more than once in his career. Holtby is 22 years old. This is his first season of significant playing time. Even this year, he spent much of the year in the minor league (AHL). It was an interesting moment. You could actually hear Thomas say, "great job, kid," in the camera microphone. There is a tradition of appreciation for great play in the NHL. There is the unexpected. But after pushing, fighting, and smashing each other up, the players line up, shake hands, congratulate the winners, and console the losers. It can actually be quite moving. It is a sincere act of honor and appreciation for the game of hockey and for each other as hockey players.
Many of you are wondering where this is going. Well, here it is. Jesus said, "Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (NIV). If NHL players can appreciate, congratulate, and console the other team's players, even after a hard-fought seven-game playoff series, surely we could learn to appreciate, congratulate, and console each other in the church. Followers of Christ beat each other up (usually emotionally, psychological, and spiritually, rather than physically), insult each other, and leave brothers and sisters lying in the gutter. I'm sure this should not be so. So, even if we see things differently than others, let's say, "Great job, kid," to encourage the good qualities and hard work of others. Let's learn a lesson from Lord Stanley! (Lord Stanley is the person for whom the cup was named.)