Erik Johnson Reveals The Hardest Part Of Winning A Stanley Cup And The One Thing Only Champions Can Do With The Trophy

Erik Johnson Reveals One Stanley Cup Tradition Reserved For Champions

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As of this writing, a grand total of 3,385 names have been etched on the Stanley Cup, which has cemented itself as the most iconic championship trophy the world of athletics has to offer since it was presented for the first time in 1893.

It may surprise you to learn that less than 1,500 of those names belong to the NHL players who played the biggest role in securing the hallowed piece of hardware— an exclusive club that now counts Erik Johnson among its members after the Colorado Avalanche brought Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Denver for the third time in franchise history last month.

The veteran defenseman has played the bulk of his 15 seasons in the NHL with the Avs and finally earned the right to raise the Stanley Cup after the team dispatched the Lightning in six games last month.

Following the win, he also earned the right to add “Honorary Brewmaster” to his résumé courtesy of Bud Light, which tapped him to help whip up a limited-edition batch of beer for fans in search of a celebratory quaff following the victory.

I got the chance to chat with Johnson a few days after the victory parade where he treated fans to his rendition of Blink-182’s “All The Small Things.”

During the conversation, he shed some light on the most difficult aspect of the deepest playoff run of his NHL career, addressed some of the mishaps his teammates have encountered during their time with the Stanley Cup, discussed how he’s spent his time with the trophy (and what he plans to do with it in the offseason), and much, much more.

BroBible: First of all, congratulations. I know it’s been quite an experience. How are you holding up?

Erik Johnson: I’ve finally come up for air here. It’s just been an absolute blast. The best week of my life by far.

Can you just tell me a bit about your role as the Honorary Brewmaster with Bud Light and what that’s entailed? 

Yeah. I got a message from my agent about a super cool opportunity from Bud Light. I’ve always been a huge Bud Light fan.

I get to go up to Fort Collins and brew a special edition beer up there with Bud Light. It’s a special edition that all Avs fans can get throughout the Denver area with the special edition’s Championship Logo and my signature. They’ll be able to enjoy it through the rest of the year.

Is there a way to even articulate how you felt when you got to touch and raise the Stanley Cup for the first time?

It was like an out-of-body experience, It’s just the most thrilling, invigorating, amazing, special feeling. Take the adrenaline rush you get from skydiving or something like that and multiply it by a thousand. It was just the most surreal, amazing thing.

I’ve played in the NHL for 15 years, but I’ve been playing hockey since I was five years old. That’s why you start playing the game: it’s fun and you want to win a Stanley Cup.

I’ve been having fun for a lot of years and never really got the chance to play for the Cup. Now, to actually win it, it’s just a life-changing, humbling, gratifying experience.

Was there a moment really where you got to sort of process it all before it all set in like, “Oh, wow. I finally did this?”

At first, you’re kind of just in shock with everything that’s happening. It’s is such an unbelievable moment and it just kept getting topped by others that came after it.

We won the Cup and then we went back to the locker room with the Cup with just all the guys. That was really the only moment we had just to ourselves. We played music and sprayed Bud Light around.

Then, we had an afterparty with all the families and we had the Cup again. Then, we go home and we have a party in Denver. Then we had the parade. It’s just day after day filled with special moments.

You just wanna do it all over again. How can you top it?

I feel like the Blink-182 sing-along is probably hard to top, but were there any other moments from the parade and the ensuing celebration that stuck out for you or that you’re gonna remember?

A lot of those speeches, the guys were kinda just winging them. I apparently I got the lyrics wrong, but I did my best to recover.

We started the parade right outside Ball Arena and there weren’t a ton of people there. We were like, “Ah, this might not be very good. I hope that people show up.” Then, you get down to the main streets in Denver and it was just a sea of people—hundreds and hundreds of people deep on both sides in some spots.

We ran out of beer at one point, so a bunch of fans were showing us full beers and we were kinda waving at them and saying, “We’ll catch them.” There were like 10 at once that flew up there. It was like getting shelled by grenades on the firetruck.

There was one beer that got launched and I saw it coming while [Nathan[ MacKinnon was facing me. I reached over his head and I caught it between my fingers. It would’ve maybe knocked him out. It was crazy.

We were lucky, me, Nate, and Gabe [Landeskog] because we had the Cup. We were fortunate that we could hoist it and hold it up and have all the fans see it. Getting off the firetrucks and running down the street and high-fiving the fans is amazing.

I saw Bowen briefly got into a bit of trouble with a cop. Did you see that unfold?

I didn’t see. They were a few trucks ahead of us. I saw the video. Obviously, the police officer’s just thinking he’s doing his job and trying to do the right thing. Everybody’s wearing jerseys and Bo’s pretty young-looking.

So, viral moment. That’s kinda what happens with stuff like that, but it was pretty cool.

You did have a fair amount of postseason experience heading into the playoffs this year, but I’m curious if there was anything you weren’t prepared for concerning a run that went as deep as it did—and one that obviously ended how it did. 

I’ve had the chance to play in the playoffs quite a bit. I think you don’t realize until you get this far that it’s not only the physical ups and downs but the mental ups and downs.

There are so many swings throughout the games and the series that you really don’t understand or appreciate until you go through it. We were fortunate that we never trailed in a series, but there were moments when you have doubts.

I think from the outside people saw that we had control of most of the series, but you’re always wary. In Edmonton, for example, we’re up 3-0 in the series and we go to overtime in Game 4. We’re in a good spot, but if we lost that game the moment would’ve suddenly shifted. Those momentum swings are pretty impactful, physically and mentally.

Even the game against St. Louis in the second round. We blew Game 5 and then we had to go back to St. Louis.That was kind of a wake-up call. We were doubting ourselves a little, but we had good meetings after that and were able to respond.

For me, it was just those swings of emotion and ups and downs that you really experience throughout the playoffs. You don’t know how hard it is to win until you actually do it. I have a newfound respect for all the guys that have won the Cup in previous years.

When you’re watching on TV, it’s just, “Oh, I want to do that. I want to get there,” but you don’t really know what it takes until you actually do it.

How does the team decide who initially gets to spend time with the Cup once the initial celebration dies down? What was the first thing you did when you got a one-on-one moment with it?

We had it ’till probably 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning after the game in Tampa in the banquet room. Then, Gabe took it for a couple of hours and went to bed with it. Then he passed it off to me.

I had just fallen asleep like an hour earlier and I get a knock on my door. He was standing there with the Cup and he goes, “Alright, you take it.” So, I had it for a couple of hours and I took that now-infamous picture of me in bed with it.

From there, it’s just mostly some of the older guys kinda get first crack at it. I had it at my house for a couple of hours the other day and then brought it over to my house for a team party.

It’s been passed around and everyone has gotten the chance to experience it. From my standpoint, every chance I got, I was just, “Yep, I’ll go do this. I’ll go do this with the Cup. You want to be around it as much as possible.

How big of a role do the Keepers of the Cup play? Are they mostly hands-off or are they always around once it’s been presented?

You really don’t think they would be around as much until you win.

They’re always there?

They’re always there, especially after you win. I think there was two or three, but they do a great job. Things happen, as I’m sure you’ve seen, where it gets dropped. Their role is huge.

The only thing that we were unhappy about—as I’m sure other teams are—is that the Cup usually has to leave around 1:00 in the morning. Otherwise, they’d be up all night, right?

From there, though, they go everywhere with it. They’re right next to it the whole time. They’re always watching. They’re like the President’s Secret Service for the Cup, you know?

You touched on this, but Nicolas [Aube-Kubel] ran into a slight issue right after it got presented. I also saw Kurtis [MacDermid had a, um, fun night hoisting it at a club. Gabe’s neighbors also got it for a little bit before it got dropped off at the right house.

Are there any other incidents that we haven’t heard about that you might be able to share? 

There are a few that no one knows about.

I don’t wanna blow up any spots. 

No, it’s nothing too bad. You know, we got a little bit of a lashing for things like letting people lift it over their head.  You can’t lift the Cup over your head unless you’ve won it. You also can’t drink out of the Cup unless someone that’s won it is pouring it for you.

We didn’t know those rules, and the keepers kind of laid them out for us after that. The Kubel thing was obviously funny. I had a couple of people text me and say, “I can’t believe that you dropped the Cup,” and I’m like, “I didn’t drop the Cup. What are you talking about?”

The MacDermid video is obviously hilarious. He’s so funny. He had so much anxiety from it too. He felt so bad, but we were just like, “Man, I’m sure worse has happened than that.” It’s all about respecting the cup, right?

You want to have fun, but it’s also a treasured item.

I actually looked into the history of people damaging it and the Maple Leafs somehow managed to set it on fire in the ’60s, so I think you’re good.

Oh, geez. I think we’re good, then.

Do you have plans for what you’re going to do when you get a chance to spend a bit more time with it in the off-season?

I think I get my day later in August, or early September. I’m going to start with it in Denver and take it to some children’s hospitals in the morning. Then, I’m going to hopefully show it off to a bunch of fans at a date to be determined.

Then I’m gonna hop on a plane and come down to Southern California and just kind of have a party with it. We’ll see what else happens, but there are some plans in the works.

Congratulations again. Thanks for taking the time to chat. 

My pleasure. Thank you.

Parts of this interview were edited for clarity.