Champions are often asked what they think about when they win – what it feels like to be a part of history.
On the ice at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas after the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup, Mitch Korn and John Walton were thinking about bringing the Cup to Oxford.
“The first thing [Mitch] said to me wasn’t congratulations — it wasn’t even a hug. It was business: ‘We’re going to Oxford,’” Walton said in an interview last Wednesday. “I knew before we even flew home to Washington to see everybody back in D.C. that we were going to come here.”
Korn was Miami’s goaltending coach from 1981-88. He developed Alain Chevrier into becoming the first Miami goalie to reach the NHL. He coached two NHL goalies into Vezina Trophy winners for the league’s top goaltender and a Hart Trophy winner for the league’s MVP.
Korn has also run his own summer camps for years, developing youth athletes into good hockey players and better people.
He had done it all. But he hadn’t won the Stanley Cup.
“I never measure success by winning or losing,” Korn said. “I’ve always measured success on the impact that you’re able to have on others.”
After winning, though, Korn realized it’s pretty cool.
“It was surreal,” Korn said. “I don’t remember a lot about that night on the ice. I see the pictures of raising the Cup. I see the video of raising the Cup. I don’t remember raising the Cup. It’s all a blur.”
Walton remembers the night well. As “The Radio Voice of the Washington Capitals,” he called the game and will be a part of history in an entirely different way. His name won’t get pressed onto the Stanley Cup, but his radio call of Game Five in Vegas will live over the airwaves for years to come.
“It doesn’t run through your head when you’re doing it, but when they’re playing it over the loudspeakers here at the old college rink and hearing my partner over the air talking as well, you realize that it does live on forever,” Walton said.
Stanley’s day in Oxford will live on forever, as well.
Stanley Cup champions are allowed to have the cup from midnight to midnight. The players, coaches and staff tell the Hockey Hall of Fame where they want the Cup and the HHOF tells them when they can have it. Oxford got lucky the Cup was scheduled to visit during the school year.
One of four Keepers of the Cup, the Stanley Cup’s handlers, Howie Burrow drove from Chicago to Oxford in the middle of the night to set it up for the festivities.
Keepers of the Cup traditionally wear white gloves out of respect for the 126-year-old trophy. Those gloves, Burrow joked, could have been from Dollar Tree.
Burrow still slipped on the gloves to move the Cup from the Goggin lobby to the Steve ‘Coach’ Cady Arena.
When Korn and Walton walked the Cup onto the ice, Miami’s Division I hockey team climbed off the bench and skated from the opposite end of the ice, congregating around the trophy.
After a picture, players sprawled on their stomachs on the ice, eyes squinting and hands by their sides. History drew them to the trophy, but superstition repelled them — if you touch the Cup, you won’t win it.
“Guys watch it growing up,” sophomore forward Phil Knies said. “It’s one of the greatest trophies in sports, so they’re trying to look at names and teams they recognized or players they watched growing up, players they idolized and teams they were fans of — just trying to make a connection with what was on there.”
Over 4,000 others connected with the Stanley Cup throughout the day. Some were Capitals fans, but most were just hockey fans, taking pictures with the Cup and touching the trophy so many hockey legends had held before.
When the clock struck midnight, Burrow whisked the Stanley Cup away from Korn and Walton, likely in those white gloves. He packed the trophy into its case to continue its summer tour.
A poster of Korn now hangs in the Goggin Ice Center lobby, above other Stanley Cup champion and Miami alum Alec Martinez, making Korn part of Miami history.
Korn’s name will be etched onto the Stanley Cup’s highest ring under “Washington Capitals 2017-18,” making him, and a little piece of Oxford, part of hockey history.