COLOGNE – If it’s the final weekend of the World Championship, then it must be time for a visit from the Hockey Hall of Fame. Indeed, Phil Pritchard, the keeper of the Stanley Cup, is in town to collect what he can from this year’s tournament. Actually, his job began more than two weeks ago, in Gelsenkirchen. Because of that historic game, the IIHF did a little footwork on behalf of Pritchard, gathering the stick of Florian Schütz, who scored the overtime goal to give Germany a 2-1 win over the United States in front of a world record crowd of 77,803.
In addition, Gelsenkirchen also yielded the sweater of team captains Marcel Goc and Jack Johnson, and the three goal pucks from that game.
“The Hockey Hall of Fame is a museum,” Pritchard explained of the Toronto building, “but we collect on an ongoing basis from games and events around the world. Today’s big game is tomorrow’s historic moment, and we have to constantly be aware of what’s going on so we can gather artifacts from great hockey moments.”
Pritchard’s wish list is always wide open, depending on the league, player, or event he's interested in, from minor hockey, to junior and NCAA, to club teams in Europe and the big events between top hockey nations. In some instances, he’ll “get whatever he can,” and in other instances, he’ll go after particular objects from particular players. “In general, we want to capture the history of the game, so in Cologne we’ll start with the goal pucks from the gold and bronze medal games. But we’d also love to have one of Germany’s third sweaters, a few sticks and other equipment, and anything from a player who distinguishes himself.”
Such an example is Petteri Nummelin. On May 8, against Denmark, he set a new record by playing in his 15th World Championship. The IIHF presented him with a platter to honour the moment, and the Hockey Hall of Fame collected his sweater from that game.
“We are undergoing a massive expansion of out international zone at the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Pritchard continued, “and our collection from the World Championships and Olympics is so extensive, we’ll have no trouble filling the space. Our biggest problem is not having enough room, but we hope by the end of the year that will be taken care of.”
Visitors to the world’s foremost hockey archive can always see a round-up of the past year’s events, which this year include Canada’s historic Olympic gold win, the gold captured by the United States at the U20, and, of, course, this weekend’s gold medalists. The Hall is both entertaining and informative, and its international section has grown by leaps and bounds over the course of the many years it has been part of the Hall.
“International hockey is such an important part of the game’s history,” Pritchard explained, “and the line between North America and the IIHF keeps getting thinner. The stars of the Olympics are mostly stars of the NHL, and fans around the world recognize the dual presence in the game. For North American fans, they are more aware of European hockey than ever before, and for Europeans, they follow the NHL more closely as well.”
Of course, the most prized artifacts for Pritchard will come from the gold-medal team, and we’ll know who that is on Sunday night. “Right after the game, I’ll go into the dressing room and collect what I can. Players are usually very accommodating after winning the gold.”
And why wouldn’t they be? They’ve just made history.