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Stanley Cup, 59, backs Penguins

| Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sandra Cup would love to be able to send her husband to a hockey playoff game.

She tried, through the box office, but she couldn't get even standing-room-only tickets for the diehard fan to watch his beloved Pittsburgh Penguins. A friend was going to sell her a pair for a recent game, but that deal fell through.

So when the Pens skate onto the ice in the finals against the Detroit Red Wings, Stanley Cup -- that's right, Stanley Joseph Cup, 59, of Saltsburg -- will not be in the building.

"The Penguins are so hot now, it's hard to get tickets because everyone wants them. I think they're going to go all the way," she said, lamenting her husband's misfortune.

"You'd think they'd want the real Stanley Cup there, because he could be a good-luck charm."

Stanley Cup, a steel worker who puts in daily 10-hour shifts at the Akers National Roll mill in Avonmore, doesn't think of himself as a talisman. Nope, he said, he's just a regular guy.

He is the son of a coal miner, Steven Stanley Cup, a man who had a "real good friend" named Stanley but no real interest in hockey. His father, the son of an Austrian dairy farmer, also liked the common ethnic nickname for Stanley -- "Stush."

So Stush, not Stanley, is what his friends call him.

He prefers his quiet life in the country to the hectic pace of any city he's ever visited. He collects hockey pucks but still needs one from the Penguins. His favorite player is Evgeni Malkin. His favorite beer is Miller Light, best enjoyed with his buddies at the Tunnelton Inn.

He doesn't like the limelight but is too polite to shun the attention his name draws, particularly during hockey season. Every couple of years around playoff time, his phone rings with interview requests from reporters across the country, he said.

Usually, it's a snowball effect. When one journalist looking for a new story angle digs up some hockey trivia, others follow the lead.

Sometimes, journalists get his 91-year-old aunt, Helen, because her phone number is listed. She giggles and quizzes reporters about their credentials "to make sure you are who you say you are because you just can't tell these days" before she checks her address book and offers his number.

"I got lots of calls when this first started," she said, telling a reporter that she's no hockey fan, but she's certainly proud of her nephew. "I like it to a certain extent, but not that much, not like him."

Cup said he doesn't mind the attention from local print journalists, but television and radio interviews make him nervous. He talks to reporters only because his wife and daughters, Stephanie and Sabrina, get a kick out of it.

"I'm not much of a talker," Cup said.

Years ago, his name got him some free beers in a Toronto hockey bar. In 2001, a Detroit radio station tried but couldn't convince him to visit the city to bring luck to the Red Wings.

His family persuaded him to step into the spotlight briefly in 2006, when he served as an ambassador for the OLN cable television network for National Hockey League games. He went to New York with his daughter and her husband, where he did some television interviews and met some players.

The network sent him and his son-in-law to the first playoff match between Carolina and Edmonton. He touched the Stanley Cup and had his picture taken with his namesake trophy.

That was a thrill, but three days in New York City was not.

"New York was scary to me. I don't like the city," he said.

Although he'd love to see the Pens in person -- just as he did for seven or eight games last season -- Cup will be with his friends at the bar when the Penguins take on Detroit. It'll be fun, he said.

Tunnelton Inn owners Jan and Kevin Nagg put out free food while their patrons party and watch the games on a big screen TV. They've hung a picture of Cup, holding the Stanley Cup, above their bar.

"I keep teasing him that I'm going to take his picture and make copies of it so he can autograph them for us to sell them," Jan Nagg said.

He takes it all in stride. For a regular guy, a game on TV and beer and buddies is OK.

"That's what we always do," he said. "We'd like to be at the game, but tickets are tough to come by, so we'll just hang out and watch them together."

Additional Information:

One goal:Lord Stanley's Cup

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