By Stephen Whyno, AP Hockey Writer
Bruce Boudreau has seen a lot of things in his hockey life. He’s never heard of anything like this.
The minor hockey league ECHL said Saturday the Kelly Cup that has been awarded to its champion since 1997 was not returned by the Colorado Eagles after their title and a new trophy has been created.
“I thought you were only allowed to have it for the summer, then you have to return it,” said Boudreau, who won it with the Mississippi Sea Wolves in 1999. “That’s what we did. Yeah, give it back. Like, it’s not yours, man.”
ECHL Commissioner Emeritus Patrick J. Kelly said the Eagles didn’t give back the Kelly Cup in December as scheduled.
“The tradition of returning the Championship Trophy to the League was not honored by the Colorado Eagles,” the ECHL said in a statement. “If the Colorado Eagles do intend to return the Kelly Cup, the ECHL welcomes its return so that it too may be a part of hockey history.”
For now, the league has made a new Kelly Cup that is actually the fourth in history. Boudreau is glad it lists past champions on the new trophy that replaces the one he partied with at his golf club in Saint Catherine’s, Ontario, 20 years ago.
“I had it for a couple days and brought it home and drank with it,” Boudreau said. “But at the same time, you send it back, and I just assumed our owner sent it right back at the end of the season.”
Colorado won the ECHL championship the past two seasons. It joined the America Hockey League this season as the NHL Colorado Avalanche’s top minor league affiliate.
Eagles owner Martin Lind said ECHL management has full knowledge of the situation with the Kelly Cup.
“We have made numerous attempts to return it,” Lind said in a statement. “They have chosen to ignore our requests, therefore the Kelly Cup remains in Colorado.”
Newfoundland, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ ECHL affiliate, leads Toledo 3-1 in the Kelly Cup Final and can win the title Saturday night.
Boudreau won the Kelly Cup and AHL’s Calder Cup and will enter his 13th NHL season and fourth with the Minnesota Wild looking to win the Stanley Cup. When he won the Calder Cup with Hershey in 2006, he had the trophy in the front seat when he drove over the U.S.-Canada border and took it to a bar in Manchester because the team there had fired him two years earlier.
Boudreau said he was “prouder than a peacock” when he won the Calder Cup and believes championship trophies
“Any time you win a championship, it says good job for a whole year,” Boudreau said. “And when you got a lot of teams fighting against you, no matter what level of competition it is, it’s a big thrill. Any trophy you win is a sense of accomplishment. I think it’s a big deal.”