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Is that the Stanley Cup in Chicago? You bet it is
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 9/3/2007 7:36 AM

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It is said that the remedy for thirst is to drink before you crave.

Unfortunately for Chicago hockey fans, that cure is nothing more than a mirage.

But for a few hundred lucky ones this weekend, ex-Blackhawks general manager Bob Murray -- now the assistant GM in Anaheim and a star in the Ducks' front office -- delivered the chalice to a land parched by a half-century of drought.

The Stanley Cup was indeed here in Chicago, first at a party at Murray's suburban home, and then at Ridgemoor Country Club on the Northwest Side, where fans and friends who waited a lifetime to drink from Lord Stanley's hallowed bowl wet their lips and drenched their shirts.

"It just makes me happy to see my friends enjoying this, and to see hockey fans touch the Cup. It's a thrill,'' Murray said. "It's amazing because people just look at it in disbelief.''

They stop, stare and point, shake their heads and repeat the same words over and over: "That's the Stanley Cup.''

It remains the most cherished piece of hardware in sports, and even on non-hockey fans it has a paralyzing effect.

"I've spent a little time with it and I still feel the same way,'' Murray said. "I still can't believe it's right there and I can go pick it up any time I want.''

It does have a surreal quality, none more so than for those who grew up playing the game and dreamed of someday hoisting the silver grail.

And for a Kingston, Ontario, native it's more than a dream come true.

It's the fulfillment of a lifetime's work spent chasing the defining prize.

"It doesn't get old, I can tell you that,'' Murray said with a giant smile. "The feeling doesn't go away.''

Nor does the danger, at least for the "Keeper of the Cup.''

Mike Bolt has been around the world this summer, to several continents, through dozens of countries, and flown thousands of miles with the precious cargo.

Each member of the organization gets a day or two with the Cup, and Bolt or his partner are always there to shepherd the jug to the next destination.

"We've had a few scary moments, that's for sure. It's going to need some repair work,'' Bolt said of the dents and scratches. "Mostly, you worry that after a whole summer of this, that the bowl is going to snap off the top, so I keep a pretty close eye on it.

"You don't see me turning my back on it too much. But we're near the end of the tour now, so I think we'll make it OK.''

Thursday will mark three months since Anaheim blew out Ottawa in Game 5 at home to secure the series, but it still seems like yesterday for the 52-year-old Murray.

Yet, despite the thrills and chills, Murray doesn't feel complete.

"It hurts that it hasn't happened here in Chicago,'' Murray said. "We played in front of the greatest fans and all we wanted was to give this to them.

"It hurts us that it's been a long time here. You ask any old Blackhawk and they'll tell you the same thing. No matter where they are or where they've been, or what's happened to them in Chicago, they'll tell you they regret it not happening for the fans here.''

Murray has every right to be bitter about never getting the chance to do his job properly as GM in Chicago before Bob Pulford pulled the rug out from under him, but he spews no venom.

On paper, he had the job for two years until he was torched in December 1999, but in reality, with a summer being taken away by the powers above, Murray had less than a year to do the job.

Not a fair shot for anyone, and certainly not one who had given 25 years of his life to the sweater, who played 1,008 games for only one NHL team, who is still No. 4 all time on the Hawks' games-played list.

"Dougie Wilson and I talk all the time about how we're in this to win Cups, just like we were in it to win Cups as players,'' Murray said of the San Jose GM, who is not only a close friend but was Murray's defensive partner in Chicago for 10 years. "It's all we ever wanted. It's what you grow up wanting.

"It bothers us that things haven't worked in Chicago.''

Murray's ouster is a well-known story to Hawks fans and NHL folks around the league, where he is one of the most respected talents and brightest minds.

And though Anaheim GM Brian Burke gets most of the credit, Murray is happy to work behind the scenes as more partner than assistant to Burke, who is also one of the best in the game today.

But Murray has turned down three chances to run his own team this summer, preferring to go for the repeat in Anaheim, and waiting for just the right situation to pop up.

"Why didn't it work out here for me? I still don't really know,'' said Murray, who took a very high road. "I guess it just wasn't the right timing for me.''

But his timing and his moves have been perfect in Anaheim.

Just ask Ducks fans.

In only their 13th year of existence, they have wet their beaks already.

If you ask Hawks fans, they'll tell you that in Southern California, thirst is something those folks will never fully understand.