WILMINGTON, Mass. — The players at this year's Bruins rookie camp know they are experiencing a rare opportunity to join an organization fresh off a Stanley Cup championship.
Each of them dreams of one day hoisting the Cup themselves. A couple even got close to hockey's most hallowed trophy this summer, just not too close.
Defenseman Ryan Button and forward Craig Cunningham each got an up close look at the Cup during its swing through Western Canada, but both observed one of hockey's most sacred unwritten laws that dictates that a player who hasn't won the Cup himself is not to touch the cherished chalice.
It was a close call for Button, though, when he got his chance to get up close to the Cup during fellow Edmonton native Johnny Boychuk's day with it.
"No touch," Button said. "It's funny. I didn't know the superstition until about two days before. My family was joking around in the kitchen and I said, 'Yeah, I'm probably going to touch the Cup.' And my dad was like, 'What are you talking about? No, you never touch the Cup.' Even if you're as old as he is, you never touch the Cup. So I didn't touch it, and neither did my mom or dad. We all kept the tradition alive."
Cunningham didn't need any warnings when he had his chance to see the Cup in Vancouver when former Vancouver Giants teammate Milan Lucic brought the Cup home.
"No, I didn't touch it," Cunningham said. "I was told not to, and I think the nearest I got to it was about two or three feet just for a picture. If you're playing hockey and you didn't win it yourself, I don't think you should touch it."
Keeping his distance didn't make the chance to see the Cup any less special for Cunningham.
"It was cool," Cunningham said. "I was lucky enough to get a chance to be able to experience that. Obviously I didn't win it, but just to be around it and see how big of a feat it really is. I think it was amazing for [Lucic] to bring it back to where they won it. It was a lot of fun with his friends and family."
Not everyone in Vancouver was too happy about Lucic and the Bruins winning the Cup against the hometown Canucks, but Cunningham said that things weren't too bad in the city this summer. He did make sure not to advertise his NHL allegiance too much around town though.
"I didn't really wear too many Bruins shirts around town, that's for sure," said Cunningham, a 2010 fourth-round pick who was signed to an entry-level deal after this summer's development camp in July. "I went to Looch's Cup party. That was pretty cool. One time I went into a coffee shop and one of the guys was wearing a Bruins shirt and one of the other guys said, 'That's pretty ballsy to wear that shirt around here.' But I think they eventually got over it."
Just as Cunningham was appreciative of being able to join Lucic for his day with the Cup, Button expressed his gratitude to Boychuk for the chance to share part of his day with him, as well as all the other help the Boston blueliner had offered since Button was drafted by the Bruins in the third round in 2009.
"When Johnny had it in town I was fortunate enough to go to the Cup party," Button said. "It was a great time. Johnny is an unbelievable player and an even better person. He really helps me out a lot during the summer and makes me feel comfortable whenever I come to Boston. I've got nothing but great things to say about Johnny Boychuk."
The Cup has certainly been a presence in Wilmington this week, with banners commemorating Boston's championship adorning the wall above the bench at Ristuccia Arena and a new statue of the Cup greeting visitors beside the main entrance to the rink. It's a different atmosphere than past camps, but Button doesn't expect to really feel the impact of last year's title until the guys who actually won it show up for the main camp when veterans report on Friday.
"I think once main camp starts and you start going with all those guys that have won the Cup, I think the intensity will be significantly increased from last year," said Button, who is participating in his third training camp with the Bruins. "But coming in with a bunch of new guys, none of us won it obviously, but getting a chance to be around the older guys who did will be pretty special."