MORRIS – A cry of “yes” rang out Saturday in the Get Fit 24/7 Fitness Centers in Morris after it was announced that those in attendance could touch, hug or kiss the Stanley Cup when it arrived.
That yes came from Allison Jensen, 18, and Joanna Nowicki, 16, both of Morris. Jensen skipped her homecoming at Illinois State University and Nowicki postponed getting ready for Morris High School’s homecoming so they could see what is often described as the best trophy in professional sports.
Jensen, clad in a No. 19 jersey of Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, noted she went to the Blackhawks Convention earlier this year and saw the cup there – but wasn’t allowed to touch it.
Both women planted a kiss on Lord Stanley about an hour later when it was their turn with the trophy annually awarded to the best team in the National Hockey League. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in June – the team’s second in four seasons.
The fitness club’s owner, Scott Sypolt, was able to bring the Cup to Morris because he is affiliated with the Blackhawks. Saturday’s event served as a fundraiser – attendees were asked to donate $10 a person – for the American Indian Center of Chicago.
Laurie Williams, general manager of Get Fit 24/7 Fitness Centers in Morris, said the donations were still being tabulated Monday, and Sypolt planned to match the contributions.
Sypolt brought the Cup to Morris because the fitness center was big enough to accommodate the crowd that would come to view the trophy, Williams said.
“He loves Morris, as do I,” she said. “He is from a small town himself. He fell in love with Morris the first time he came through. He thought he would share it.”
Williams estimates at least 3,000 people saw the Cup on Saturday while it was in town.
Williams said it was exciting to see the faces of the Blackhawks fans, as well as show off the fitness center’s recent renovation and new equipment to past, present and hopefully future clients.
“I have been here 16 years, and it’s never looked so good,” Williams said.
The first VIPs at the event saw the Cup about 1 p.m., and the trophy had a constant stream of visitors until it left around 4:15 p.m.
Lord Stanley arrived in Morris in a black trunk, and it was wheeled through a crowd almost exclusively dressed in Hawks jerseys and shirts inside the fitness center before being ushered into a private office. Its handler donned white gloves, lifted the silver trophy and placed it onto a table for its three-hour visitation with local fans.
Seeing the cup meant longtime Blackhawks fan and Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick got to check an item off his bucket list.
“To have it in Morris, to me, it’s a huge thing,” he said.
Tina Middleton of Coal City brought her 2-year-old son, Aidan, to see the cup. Middleton saw a sign last week advertising that the Cup would be in town, and stopped at the fitness center to find out what was going on.
“I had to turn around and ask, ‘Is it the real thing?’” she said.
Andrew Ferguson of Geneva lifted his 4-month-old son, Barrett, into the Cup when it was their turn.
“He didn’t cry; that’s all we wanted,” he said.
Ferguson said he came after Sypolt, a family friend, let him know about it.
“I’m a huge fan so I came out,” he said. “When he told me I could put my son in it, I was sold.”
Some came from even farther away. Julie Garner, who grew up in Bourbonnais, flew in from her current home in New York to see the Cup. She noted she’s had other chances to see the Cup but passed on them.
“It’s only right when it’s the Hawks,” she said. “I am so excited. It’s pretty awesome. Never in a million years did I think I would get to touch it.”
When it was her turn, she reverently touched it.
“Oh my God,” she said. “That is awesome.”