LAS VEGAS – Mike Bolt smiles as he looks at his travel partner for the past 24 years resting quietly in his hotel room bed.
“You get an attachment like it’s your baby,” Bolt says. “Like it’s part of your family. We spend more time together than I do with anyone else. I’ve had girlfriends over the years but this is the best and longest relationship I’ve had in 24 years.”
Bolt gets silent and normally this might be the moment where you ask what’s wrong but it’s clear he’s in a one-way relationship as he puts on his gloves and picks up his companion.
“It’s an inanimate object, it’s a trophy,” Bolt says as he holds the Stanley Cup. “I get it but we’ve traveled the world together. Do I get upset when things go wrong and something happens to the Cup? You’re damn right I do.
Me and Lord Stanley are together a lot. It’s the best winger. It never talks back and everywhere you go Stanley puts a smile on everybody’s face. Everywhere you go, people are excited to see you. I know they’re excited to see the Cup, not me, but I get to be a part of it.”
Bolt has been the “Keeper of the Cup” for 24 years after Phil Pritchard, the curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame, asked him to help him in 1999. Since then, Bolt has traveled the world with Lord Stanley, checking into countless hotels and commercial flights.
“I get upgraded from time to time but not all the time,” Bolt says. “I have pretty good status but I was New York a few weeks ago and the room was about twice the size of the Cup case. Most of the time it’s a regular room but every now and then you get a beautiful suite because of Lord Stanley.”
As Bolt picks up the Stanley Cup from his bed and places it back in its black traveling case with nearly a dozen red “FRAGILE” stickers from Air Canada covering it, he says Stanley doesn’t get any preferential treatment from the other checked luggage on his flights.
“I check in like everybody else and pay the oversize fee but I always want them to know what’s inside the case,” Bolt says. “I will open the case because I want them to know what’s in the case. Have we had a few mishaps over the years on airlines? Yeah, but it’s still here. After I check it in, I have to trust the airline to do their jobs. Once we land, I wait at baggage claim with everyone else picking up their golf clubs and suitcases. I’ve seen it come crashing down a few times and I’m guessing they’re upset that they have to pick up this big case.”
Bolt laughs when asked about his personal life after admitting he spends most of his time with a 2-foot-11, 35-pound trophy.
“I have a girlfriend, Connie, but she’s not a sports fan,” Bolt says. “She’s great and I really like her. I send her clips of stuff I do throughout the day. She works for an accounting company so my day usually has a little more adventure in it than hers so I tend to talk more about what I’m doing but she’s great. She’ll watch hockey with me and she understands the job.”
As Bolt takes off the white gloves that he uses to carry around the Stanley Cup, he says the process for cleaning the Stanley Cup isn’t complicated. “I’ve had it in the shower with soap and water,” he says. “I had it in the driveway with a garden hose, some soap, a rag and a towel. Soap and water are actually the best way to clean it. Polishing silver is not the best thing to do.”
Bolt never get tired of telling old stories about traveling the world with the Stanley Cup. Whether it was a trip to Afghanistan where they were under a missile attack while meeting with soldiers to meeting astronauts at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, he’s seen it all. But there are times when he’s on the phone with Connie where he wouldn’t mind simply living a quiet life back home in Canada with his girlfriend instead of traveling the world with Stanley.
“I don’t know what the future holds for me but I’m 54 years old and I’ve been doing this for 24 years,” Bolt says. “I’m on the road over 200 days a year. I love what I do but at some point, you have to move on. I don’t know when that day will be. It could be next week, it could be next year, it could be five years from now but it’s coming. It’s definitely in the back of my mind. It will be hard to leave this. The job is a little bit like a drug with the life you get to live. I’ll miss that but the airplanes, airports, hotels, not so much. But I’ll miss Stanley. We’ve had a lot of good times together.”