Philip Pritchard @keeperofthecup
The Cup is now going through security at @haneda__airport @NHL @HockeyHallFame http://bit.ly/2iqA9zM
23/08/22 4:57 JST
This was the Stanley Cup's last journey of the summer and its farthest; it traveled all the way across the world to Japan for Yuuri and Viktor's Cup days. Phichit looked around at the people gathering at the first event of the two-day party. There was a mixture of foreign and domestic press, curious bystanders, and assorted hockey players from around Asia. Most of the hockey players were wearing their jerseys over their formal clothes, and Phichit wondered for a moment if he should have brought his Stars jersey. He felt like he would have sweated through all of his clothes if he had tried, based on how unbearably hot and humid it was, but it would have made him stand out the way the rest of them did.
From across the ballroom, Phichit exchanged nods with a few of the players he recognized, mostly from playing against them in the AHIL or internationally. Guang-Hong Ji waved at him from his growing knot of admirers — so many that Phichit could barely make out his Dragon jersey through the throng. People were taking pictures with all of the players, and even Phichit got recognized. He flashed a peace sign and smiled as a very excited girl took a selfie with him.
“I can’t believe you made it all the way to the NHL!” she said to him in English. Sometimes neither could Phichit. She asked a couple of easy questions about Viktor and Yuuri's wedding, and Phichit happily chatted about the ridiculous hotel they had the ceremony at.
A PR worker called everyone to attention eventually. The assembled crowd quieted as an introduction was made on the small stage. The Prime Minister of Japan entered, followed by Viktor holding the Cup and Yuuri holding the Prime Minister Trophy he'd been awarded the year before. They had given it to him — the Japan Professional Sports Grand Prize, what a mouthful — for making it all the way to the NHL, for being the best and brightest in his sport. A white man in a formal suit and white gloves trailed behind all of them, keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings. That was the Keeper of the Cup, Phichit knew: The man responsible for making sure that drunk hockey players didn't forget the Cup on the side of the road or throw it off a balcony.
They placed the trophies on a special cloth-covered table set up on stage. Phichit couldn't really follow the speech the Prime Minister was giving — most of the Japanese he knew was either related to food or hockey. Words like pass and goal and penalty. Swear words he could yell at the Japanese teams he used to play against.
He watched as the Prime Minister presented his friends with an expensive bottle of sake. This was the first time the Cup had been in Japan since 1997, and the first time it was awarded to a Japanese citizen. Phichit wondered if they were expected to drink the sake out of the Cup like Champagne. He couldn't himself, obviously, but he bet that Viktor and Yuuri weren't going to be sober at all by the time the day was over. Cameras flashed as Yuuri bowed and accepted the sake.
Then the Prime Minister leaned forward and touched the Cup, causing the Keeper of the Cup to freeze and an audible gasp to come from the foreign press section. Phichit happily whipped out his phone to take a picture of Yuuri's clearly visible shocked expression over the Prime Minister's shoulder.
Phichit didn't know what to expect when he arrived in Dallas. A Stars employee met him at the airport, herding him and his gear into a waiting car along with another foreign hockey player. They introduced themselves to each other and waited in nervous silence as they were driven to the hotel near the practice center. Phichit watched as the road went by; he'd never been to Texas before.
Once they got to their hotel, they got their room assignments — Charbel Hellström was bunking with a fellow Swede while Phichit was with one of the Korean players — and met with the others hovering around the lobby. Only a few of invited prospects were locals; most were recent draftees and college students from the northern states. Phichit was the oldest player present.
They did their physicals the next morning and then the fitness testing that afternoon. The team had offered to get him a translator for the week, but Phichit's English was better than half of the European players there and they were all muddling through without one.
"You're oldest, you want to go first or last?" Hellström asked him on the third day, when they were about to hit the ice for the first time. Phichit was almost embarrassingly impressed with how nice the locker room was. This was just the practice center; he could barely believe it. He Snapchatted a couple of pictures of his locker stall and his nameplate above it to his followers.
"What?" Phichit asked, looking up from his phone. Hellström's accent was so thick Phichit wondered how his English-only teammates understood him at all.
"Go first or last?"
"Uh, first," Phichit said.
He didn't regret it when he stepped onto the ice for the first time.
It was just a practice rink, but there were stands. In a practice rink. It was an arena Phichit would have been excited to play in in Asia, and this was just the practice rink? Three thousand people could fit comfortably on the rows and rows of stadium seating, and there would still be sections left open.
Hellström laughed at the expression on Phichit's face. "No one warn you? I was shocked too first time. They have tournaments here sometimes."
"Are people going to come and watch us?" Phichit asked, suddenly feeling a little nervous. He didn't have any experience with North American hockey, not like Yuuri did. He was confident in his skating and his playmaking, that he could keep up with the eighteen year olds around him, but no one wanted to make a fool of themselves in front of teammates and strangers. He wanted to do his teammates from the Thai national team and his ALIH team proud.
"It's only public for the last few days," Seung-Gil Lee, one of the Korean players, said to Phichit in Korean. He played for High1's rival, Halla, so they had faced off against each other often over the years. "That's when we do the scrimmage."
Hellström made a disgruntled noise. "Speak English at least. Most people here do."
"Maybe you should learn Korean," Lee told him.
"Or Thai," Phichit said in Thai. He and Lee skated off together. Lee didn't laugh when Hellström shouted "I already speak three languages!" after them, but Phichit did.
After the first event ended and they left the hotel ballroom, the day started to feel like a photoshoot. They walked around Tokyo with the Cup while a dedicated group of fans and photographers followed them, like an impromptu parade. They got video of Viktor and Yuuri at Shibuya Crossing, with people who probably didn't even know who they were stopping to stare. After all, how often do you see someone hoisting a sixteen kilogram silver trophy over their head around Tokyo?
Phichit questioned the Keeper of the Cup about what players were and weren't allowed to do and tweeted out what he thought the funniest answers were. A couple of hockey news magazines and the official Dallas Stars account retweeted him.
Eventually they got on the Ginza line and took the train up to Akihabara Station. Once there, their odd little troupe walked over to the Kanda Shrine. There were what Phichit thought was a surprising number of business employees milling around until Yuuri explained that the shrine was near Akihabara Electric Town, the tech district. Over time, the shrine had started to cater to the workers in the surrounding area. Phichit immediately bought an omamori that Yuuri said was made to ward off computer failure.
Phichit stood back as Viktor, Yuuri, and the Keeper of the Cup approached the shrine. A priest came out of the main building to greet them. The camera crew followed them up the steps and into the shrine, so that they could film the Stanley Cup being blessed for whatever media package the Ottawa Senators were putting together.
What would Phichit do, if he won the Cup? It was something that every hockey player in North America dreamed of, planning for it the way some people obsess over their future wedding. They think of every detail, from the route of their hometown parade to who they would invite to the party afterwards.
Phichit could take it back to Chuncheon, in Korea, where he played with High1. They would appreciate that. Or he could have his Cup day in Bangkok, at the rink in the commercial district where he learned to skate. His old teammates from the ALIH could come to Thailand, and they could make it an event to expand hockey in his home country. Get some more interest going in the sport Phichit had devoted his life to. Phichit had been made an alternate captain for their national team a few years ago — not that it had done them any good in the Challenge Cup of Asia, where they once again finished an unsatisfying fourth. The national team would make an appearance at any Cup celebration Phichit had to show their support.
But he would have to win it first, of course. If he ever did.
Viktor and Yuuri appeared at the entrance of the Kanda Shrine again. Yuuri had the Cup in hand. Viktor and Yuuri bowed to the priest and then to the shrine; the Keeper of the Cup echoed them a moment behind, clearly and uncertainly mimicking what they did.
If someone placed it on a scale, it would weigh sixteen kilograms. It was a heavy trophy, but they said that when you won it, it felt like it weighed nothing at all. Yuuri carried it like that, like he could hold it all day without tiring.
“Phichit!” Yuuri called across the courtyard to where Phichit was loitering with the lingering fans and photographers near the grand archway. “Hey, Viktor got reservations at Seaman Akihabara. They’re closing part of the restaurant for us. Are you coming?”
“Yeah, great!” Phichit said, straightening. He pulled out his phone and began to compose an update as Yuuri spoke to the others gathered there, giving them an invitation as well.
Phichit quickly took a selfie in front of the archway in front of the shrine and added it to his tweet. It wouldn’t do to let his followers down. He had worked hard to cultivate a social media presence that was recognized in both the Asian hockey world and the Western one. Building a brand, his agent called it.
After a moment, he messaged Guang-Hong, asking if he wanted to join them. Guang-Hong said yes.
It didn’t matter how many training camp scrimmages he took part in or how many people came to watch the team practice — nothing prepared Phichit for the crowd that greeted him at warmups before his first preseason game with the Dallas Stars. The AAC wasn’t full, of course, as it was only the preseason, but there were at least six thousand people there already, with more teeming in from the concourse. As he circled their defensive zone with the rest of the team, he tried not to get so caught up in staring that he tripped over his own skates, until—
Up against the glass, someone had printed a photo of a familiar striped flag. His flag. Thailand’s flag.
There they were, pressed in a crooked row: Copies and copies of the Thai flag, inter-spaced with some poorly translated words of encouragement aimed directly at him.
The tears weren't entirely unexpected, because Phichit had always been a crier. He and Yuuri were very alike in that respect. They just couldn't help but cry their feelings out, although Phichit suspected that he was more prone to happy tears than Yuuri was. But he remembered watching online when the people of Ottawa had done something similar for Yuuri with the Japanese flag, and now the people of Dallas were doing it for him....
Phichit made sure that everyone who brought a printed Thai flag got a loose puck from warmups, even though it meant that he was the second to last player to get off the ice. No one on the team gave him grief for it, at least.
[video] GOTTA SEE IT: Thai player Phichit Chulanont touched by Dallas fans moving gesture before first game
submitted by cowboyhattrick 2 years ago
[-] cowboyhattr1ck ☆ 743 points 2 years ago
I can't believe we got featured on the news! I want to thank everyone over in /r/dallasstars who helped me set this up. It's important to me that we recognize players like him who have traveled so far for the sport. He even gave all of us a puck! I posted some pics over on our subreddit if you want to check them out.
[-] theracoonking ♚ 156 points 2 years ago
It's stuff like this that sets hockey apart from other sports. Great job!
Alcohol flowed easily and frequently. The party had taken over more than half of the restaurant, and no one seemed to mind since everyone appeared to be getting free drinks. People mingled around the center table where they set the Cup, posing and occasionally having either Viktor or Yuuri lift it so they could drink Champagne or beer or sake from the bowl at the top. Guang-Hong took advantage of the opportunity without hesitation. After all, he said to Phichit afterwards, he had no plans to play in North America, so the curse didn't matter.
(Halfway through the night, one of the photographers for Japan Times tried to get Phichit to hold the Cup for a photo. Phichit emphatically refused and then sat as far away from the Cup as he could at the restaurant. Viktor toasted him from the other side of the room, laughing at his unease.)
Viktor and Yuuri's names hadn't been etched into the Cup yet, but Yuuri pointed out the blank spot that the Senators' names were going to go. There were rows and rows of names curling around the huge base, carved with squashed and crooked little letters. Over two thousand players, general managers, coaches, and club staff had their names on Cup, with more on the older rings entrusted to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Viktor and Yuuri both already had sticks, gloves, and jerseys enshrined at the Hall of Fame's museum, both for their historic coming out in 2020 and their historic Cup victory in 2022.
Phichit had gone to the HHOF museum a year ago, when the Stars had taken him with them on their Canadian trip. He had wandered around Toronto like a tourist until he spotted the giant Spirit of Hockey sign over the door. He hadn't been recognized when he bought a ticket to the museum.
He meandered through the museum by himself until he saw a boy struggling to frame himself in a selfie with one of the jersey displays.
"Do you need someone to take the picture for you?" he had asked.
"Oh, sorry, yes, thank you," the boy said, and then he caught sight of Phichit's face. The recognition was instantaneous, and soon Phichit found himself the center of attention from all of the midday museum goers. He signed anything that was put in front of him and posed for pictures. He had laughed when the museum staffers had come to see what the commotion was about.
His visit was featured on the HHOF Facebook page; the post included a photo of him and the boy that recognized him. They were in front of the display that housed Viktor and Yuuri's Ottawa jerseys from the game that had what sports media called The Kiss.
The party wound down just before midnight. Phichit didn't know how much money the whole thing had cost, but he saw Viktor hand over his credit card without looking at the bill. Must be nice. Phichit was on a two-way contract, and he spent most of his time in the AHL, making an AHL salary. It was more than he had made in the AHIL, yes, but much less than he did for the few games a season he was up in the NHL.
After they bid goodbye to the restaurant staff, they got into the small fleet of taxis that had been called for them and were driven back to the hotel. Guang-Hong said his farewells to everyone there; he was headed back to Shanghai early the next morning for his preseason training camp. Phichit was sad to see him go.
Viktor, Yuuri, and the Cup disappeared into their hotel room, and the Keeper of the Cup went to the room across the hall. It wasn't unusual for players to sleep with the Cup, just to stretch out the amount of time they spent with it. Phichit went into his own hotel room and collapsed on the bed.
Tomorrow, they were going to all get on a train and head up to Hasetsu to see Yuuri's family. Tomorrow, they were going to take the Cup to Yu-topia Katsuki, then to Minako's studio, and then to the Ice Castle — the very rink that brought Viktor and Yuuri together. Tomorrow, they were going to party until the sun went down.
No one wishes injury on another player, but Phichit wasn't exactly sad about it when he heard that one of the Stars forwards went down with sprained ankle during practice. The next day, the team flew him from Austin to Dallas in business class, and once again someone from the organization picked him up at the airport. She drove him directly to the AAC, dropping him off in front of the players' entrance.
"Good luck," she said as he was pulling his gear bag out of the car.
"Thank you!" Phichit smiled. Equipment staff came out of the building to grab his stuff and help direct him to where he was supposed to go.
Phichit had played hockey since he was five years old. His parents had supported him in everything, even sending him out of the country when better opportunities arose. He had represented his country every year since he was sixteen. He loved this sport, and he knew this sport. He had played in the best league in Asia outside of the KHL.
But this was was the NHL, and he was going to need all the luck he could get.
They were playing against the Flyers that night. Phichit listened carefully as the coaching staff went over the tape with him, pointing out what they wanted him to do on the ice. They didn't have practice that day, so he wasn't going to have a chance to try any of it with his linemates before the game. He was too small by NHL standards to fit in a traditional third-line role, but they didn't mind — they were looking for fast, rapid play on the left wing, not brute strength.
Phichit usually stayed away from play near the crease; he didn't have the size to battle for a spot in front of the goalie, not without getting muscled aside by a defender. But he hovered around the edges, whipping in and out as play allowed, and when the puck came towards him, he didn't hesitate to thrust the blade of his stick out and deflect it towards the net.
It went in, and the goal horn blared. All eighteen thousand people in the stands stood as one and cheered; it was a sound so loud, Phichit felt it all the way to his bones.
"Fucking pigeon," one of the Flyers shouted at him across the ice, but Phichit waved back at him cheerfully. A garbage goal was a goal, and he would take a garbage goal that went in over a fancy shot that missed every time.
They ultimately lost the game, but afterwards they still gave him his goal puck. One of the trainers put a strip of masking tape on it and scrawled "NHL GOAL #1" over the top in marker. The media team took a picture of him holding it and posted the photo to Instagram.
That night in his hotel room, Phichit ran his fingers over the number one, over and over until he was worried the ink would rub off.
Stars Phichit Chulanont mocks Flyers Captain after first NHL goal
doncherryontop1 [2 years ago]
this is exactly the attitude what we don't need in the game
view all 15 replies
fuxkpens [2 years ago]
can't wait until all the stars crysbys comeout
crosbymebb [2 years ago]
Uh-oh the Flyers subreddit appears to have lost one of their idiots
Taking the train from Tokyo to Hasetsu took just over three hours, and Phichit was glad it was over by the time they disembarked. He stretched his legs at the station and watched all the locals who had come to greet them. People spoke Japanese too fast for him to even begin to follow, and he missed, suddenly, the care that the Stars locker room took to make sure that everyone understood what was happening. So many people in hockey spoke English as a second or third or fourth language that there was always someone willing to speak a little slower or call for a translator. Plus, everyone spoke the language of hockey, even if they didn't understand anything else.
(Pass, goal, penalty, asshole. The essentials.)
Phichit knew Thai, obviously, and he learned English from school and international competitions. He picked up Korean from playing there, and what Mandarin and Cantonese he knew was from Chinese players and pop culture. He lost track of any Japanese he sort of understood the second it was spoken at a natural speed.
"It's okay, I still don't understand most of it," Viktor said to him in English. It was pretty much the only language they had in common. Phichit turned to look at him. Yuuri had been corralled into another interview with Japanese reporters; the Cup was safely secured in its traveling case.
"Liar," Phichit said, more in amusement than as an accusation. "Yuuri says you've picked it up pretty well."
"He's too nice to tell me how abysmal I am," Viktor said with drama.
Phichit laughed. "Now I know you're a liar. If anything, Yuuri is too blunt for his own good."
"True, true," Viktor said fondly. "He's wonderfully honest. Most of the time."
Phichit narrowed his eyes at Viktor, wondering what that was in reference to. He hadn't actually had much opportunity to spend much time with Viktor away from Yuuri; they had already gotten together by the time Phichit met Viktor, and Phichit had never felt the urge to give Viktor any kind of shovel talk. He figured Mari had that covered enough for everyone. Maybe as Yuuri's best man, he should have.
"He has a hard time saying what he wants," Viktor explained further.
"Yeah, he does," Phichit admitted. He looked over at Yuuri, who had now moved on to signing whatever someone put in his hands. "He doesn't let that stop him, though."
"No," Viktor said. "No, he doesn't. Once he puts his mind to something, I don't think anything stops him."
The Gagarin Cup. The Stanley Cup. International medals and awards.
Viktor abandoned Phichit then and went to join Yuuri's spontaneous autograph session just as the reporters started drifting towards them. Phichit didn't miss that he'd just been left to the wolves.
Phichit did his duty and gave an interview with the media gathered — some local Japanese papers and the lingering English foreign reporters who seem mostly confused to be there at all. Phichit said nice things about looking forward to the new season no matter which Stars team he played with and how happy he was for Viktor and Yuuri — not only for their victory, but for their marriage.
"They've really had a wonderful year," he said, and he meant it.
The warmth of Austin in spring was a welcome change over the lingering chilly bite of Columbus, Ohio. It didn't hurt that the team had gotten him a first class upgrade for his plane ride back. After last night, he needed it. After last night, he would gladly never play the Blue Jackets again in his life. After last night, he quickly went from thinking the Columbus goal cannon was kind of cool to hating it with a passion he usually reserved for the Malaysian national hockey team.
Fuck that cannon.
Phichit quickly located his Prius and loaded his gear bag in the back. No matter how many of his Texas Stars teammates mocked his car choice, he had no intention of trading it in for one of those monstrous SUVs so popular in North America.
Unlike Yuuri, Phichit already knew how to drive when he came to America. He still had to take the driver's test, but he passed it easily. He posted a tweet showing off the license the DMV issued him and mocking Yuuri for not having one. Viktor had gotten them an expensive Range Rover to use around Ottawa, and Yuuri had never so much as sat in the driver's seat. Phichit, having been in it himself, was more than satisfied with the usefulness of his Prius.
Besides, he went through all the trouble of buying Hamtaro stickers for the back windshields and he didn't want to have to take them off.
It took Phichit a little over forty minutes to drive from Austin-Bergstrom Airport up to Cedar Park. He and two of his teammates were renting a house there, just a little ways from the H-E-B Center where they played. He felt every bruise from the game on the way there. It had gotten rough, with so many of the top players sitting out to rest before the playoffs, and Phichit wasn't used to taking on a third or fourth line role. There had been blood on the ice before the end of the third period, but thankfully none of it was his.
At least he scored another goal while he was up, he thought to himself. He had a little collection of them now, from the sporadic games he'd played throughout the season. Points built up, and he was having success in the AHL. His play was progressing, developing in a way that playing in Thailand or the AHIL never gave him the opportunity to.
Plus, even though Texas was still strange to him, and Austin was stranger still, he did like it. His teammates had taken him to Gourdough's when he'd first been assigned to the Texas Stars, which was mind-blowing, and he now proudly owned a 'Keep Austin Weird' shirt. He made friends, both among his teammates and the locals. He missed home, of course, but he had played almost his entire career abroad. He had missed home from Korea too.
"That was a beauty of a goal, Chuey," Brownie One said when he came through the door.
"It was," Phichit said, accepting the compliment with a grin, and Brownie One laughed.
"Seriously, when did you become such a grinder?" Brownie Two teased. He didn't look up from his retro copy of the NHL '94 video game. "Chopping at people's ankles in the corner like you're some sort of international superstar?"
"Maybe we should get his autograph," Brownie One said to Brownie Two.
"I think we should," Brownie Two said. "We can have it framed. A gen-u-ine Chuey autograph."
Phichit pulled out his sweaty, nasty smelling gloves from his gear bag and threw one at each of their heads. Brownie Two recoiled when it hit his face and immediately lost his video game. Phichit hightailed it out of the room, which didn't stop either Brownie from trying to nail him in the back with his own gloves.
"Nobody was this excited when he won the Gagarin Cup," Mari said, taking a drag from her cigarette and exhaling. Phichit leaned away from her, resisting the urge to wave the smoke away.
"Well, no," he said. "The Gagarin Cup isn't as prestigious as the Stanley Cup."
"Hmph," Mari grunted. Phichit wasn't fooled in the slightest. He knew she had teared up when they had unpacked the Cup from its case and shown it to Yuuri's family. She and Minako had all but cried outright from happiness and pride in what Yuuri had accomplished. Viktor too, he supposed, but to a lesser extent.
"It's too bad they hadn't had it at their wedding," Mari added after a moment. "It would have made a great centerpiece."
Viktor had fought for it, actually — he wanted to use it for the reception toast of all things — but Yuuri had persuaded him that it would be better to have their Cup days in Japan. Together, so they could do more with it before they had to give it back. Viktor had conceded on the condition that they go to his choice of honeymoon location.
So far, the Cup celebration in Hasetsu was off to a good start. Yuuri had made it clear to his family and friends that he didn't want a parade, but there was nothing he could do to stop the rest of the town from doing the next best thing. A small festival had sprung up outside the onsen, with rows of stalls selling food and Ottawa Senators swag. There was even a stall selling amezaiku shaped like the Stanley Cup. Phichit immediately bought one and took several photos of it.
The whole town, it seemed, had turned out to celebrate. While most of the hockey players from the day before had either stayed in Tokyo or gone home, a few dedicated ones had followed them up. Kenjirou Minami was one; Phichit could see his wildly dyed hair moving back and forth as he took photo after photo of Viktor and Yuuri with the Cup.
Yurio Plisetsky wasn't there. He hadn't come at all. While Plisetsky had made an appearance at Viktor and Yuuri's wedding, he had refused to come to Japan for the celebration. Phichit was pretty sure that Plisetsky had spent most of his summer running around Europe with that defensemen from Kazakstan he befriended at the draft, avoiding any mention of the Islanders' first round elimination from the playoffs. And probably avoiding stepping foot in Russia as well. Phichit understood that, even if he didn't understand why the other player would miss some of the most important days of Viktor and Yuuri's careers.
After a few gratuitous pictures of Yuuri eating katsudon out of the Cup — Phichit hoped they had washed it at some point — they went to the fake ninja castle for even more photos. Phichit snapped more than few himself, although he never got close enough to even accidentally brush the Cup. Once they were satisfied the visit had been documented enough, they went over to the Ice Castle for the official meet and greet. Yuuri said a few words about what an honor it was to represent his home town abroad, and Viktor said some things as well, and then the line formed.
Phichit was included in the autograph line, to his surprise, and while he politely refused to sign any of the Senators shirts or jerseys that people brought, most of which bore Yuuri's name, he did sign other things. There were mostly plain t-shirts, posters, printed photos, or whatever else people had on hand. A couple of people even brought up pictures of him in his Stars uniform, which he thought was touching.
It felt like they signed something for everyone in Hasetsu — twice — by the time Yuuko gave them the all clear to start packing up. The sun was starting to set outside, but Phichit knew the day was still far from over. There was still going to be a party.
This party was a bit more informal than the one the night before. Everyone seemed to know each other, and all of the reporters had politely refused to join them. The Senators media crew was still there, but they stood at a distance. Phichit trusted them not to let anything damaging wind up on the internet, if only to preserve the good name of their team.
Which was good, because while Viktor and Yuuri got a little drunk the night before, this night they got trashed. Phichit knew Yuuri could sling back alcohol — after all, they had played against each other internationally before, and the hotel room parties after those tournaments were always wild — but he'd never had the opportunity to see Viktor get drunk before. They acted like, well, newlyweds, and after a while everyone drifted away and let them have some privacy. Yuuri's parents excused themselves to bed, and the Keeper of the Cup looked like he wished he could do the same.
Phichit found himself sipping on a glass of Champagne, looking at the Cup. Up close it was dinged and scratched and a little dinted. He wondered what it would be like to lift it on the ice, to have everyone in the crowd screaming for you as you hoisted the Cup over your head.
When the NHL and AHL playoffs had begun, his old team in Chuncheon had posted a video wishing him luck, just as they had the year before. The Stars had featured it on their social media accounts, and it had been featured on TSN. But the Dallas Stars went out in the first round, again, and the Texas Stars went out in the second round, again, and neither of Phichit's teams went far enough to warrant flying his friends and family in to watch. He had flown up to Canada to support Viktor and Yuuri, but he hadn't anticipated how hard it would be to watch them lift that trophy over their heads. To see them hold it together and exchange a kiss under it.
Phichit may never win the Cup. It was said to be the hardest trophy to win in all competitive sports. To achieve glory in the NHL was a hard, long battle, one that often left players with little but scars to show for it. He was the first Thai skater in the NHL and the AHL. He was the first to represent his country in hockey at that level. He had a Wikipedia page about him, as well as a hashtag fans used whenever he scored a goal. People still showed up at his games with Thai flags to show their support. They cheered whenever he touched the puck.
Once his time in the big leagues was up, regardless of whether or not he won the Cup, he was going to make sure his country advanced in international hockey. He was going to make sure that their players developed well enough that they could experience that for themselves, that eventually the game grew big enough in Thailand that their hockey league could stand on its own.
"Hey Yuuri," he called. Yuuri looked up from the dark corner he and Viktor had found, glasses askew. "How do you feel about playing in an exhibition game next summer? In Thailand?"
"Sure," Yuuri said, his brow furrowed. "Why?"
"So that we can show them how great hockey is," Phichit explained with a smile. "Think we can get any other players to join us?"
"I'm sure we can find some," Viktor said. Phichit laughed and saluted them. He looked back at the Stanley Cup.
Maybe he didn't win it his first year in the league, or his second, but that wasn't the only goal of his career. Maybe it wasn't even the main goal of his career.
Philip Pritchard @keeperofthecup
And with that, the Cup is headed home again. This might be the most unique set of Cup days I've had @HockeyHallFame @Senators
26/08/22 9:12 JST