Three-year-old Alva Felicia Sundstrom may not realize it, but she holds a unique place in National Hockey League history.
Alva was baptized in the Stanley Cup.
If you are a big-time hockey fan, you know that hockey’s “Holy Grail” has been used and misused in countless ways: as a beer mug, a dog bowl, a flower pot, a serving dish for raw oysters and for Froot Loops, and to hold champagne. Detroit Red Wings’ Kris Draper allowed his newborn daughter Kamryn to use it as an impromptu toilet bowl. No stranger to politics, the Stanley Cup was displayed for Canadian and NATO troops, survived unharmed during a rocket-fired grenade attack, and was carried in Chicago’s 2010 Gay Pride Parade.
And, of course, there was the baptism.
I learned about the baptism as an aside to another story this past week, when news broke that the Stanley Cup had been dropped and dented. The accident happened in St. John’s, Newfoundland, as the Cup was being readied for a helicopter flight to Bonavista, hometown of former Boston Bruin Michael Ryder. (Fans, rest easy—the Cup sustained no serious damage.)
Anyway, seven-week-old Alva Felicia Sundstrom, niece of Detroit Red Wings’ right winger Tomas Holmstrom, was baptized in “Lord Stanley” on July 25, 2008, in a private ceremony outside Holmstrom’s hometown of Pitea, in northern Sweden. Robert Sundstrom, who is Holmstrom’s cousin and Alva’s father, said that the two men had been sitting together in the kitchen of Holmstrom’s summer cabin when the idea came up. Arrangements were made; and the only outsiders permitted were the two American security guards who travel with the Cup.
* * * * *
As a curiosity-seeker reading the reports three years later, I was amazed—not by the Stanley Cup’s use in the sacrament of initiation, but by the reader responses. I know the commenters were hockey fans; but the overwhelming message was that the baptism was highly inappropriate and disrespectful. Not to the Sacrament of Baptism, mind you. No, a majority of sports fans seemed to feel that the baptism was disrespectful to the trophy.
One reader wrote: “I hope the league fines and severely reprimands Holmstrom for abusing the cup in this manner. This to me shows a total lack of respect for the trophy. He should be ashamed. I cannot believe that the cup custodians even allowed this to happen. I am outraged.”
Somehow lost in the heated retorts was any discussion of the proportional honor due to hockey’s sacred trophy (as in, game) vs. the Church’s sacrament of initiation (as in, eternal salvation).
Perhaps the most vociferous of complainants had never heard about athletes peeing in the Cup, or dogs munching on their Kibble and Bits in its wide bowl. One would think that filling the Cup with holy water would (a) cleanse it and (b) sanctify it—making it even more deserving of public adulation.
It was not the repurposed Cup, but the Sacrament of Baptism that was slightly dented in this charade. With the Holy Grail filled to the brim with holy water, it’s hard to imagine that the baby’s parents and godparents were focused on Original Sin, and prayers, and introducing their newborn child to God. No, I’m thinking they were googly-eyed over their daughter’s expensive and highly acclaimed baptismal font.
Just a quick review: The Catholic Church teaches that Baptism has six primary effects, which are all supernatural graces.
The Effects of the Sacrament of Baptism
- The removal of the guilt of both Original Sin (the sin imparted to all mankind by the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) and personal sin (the sins that we have committed ourselves).
- The remission of all punishment that we owe because of sin, both temporal (in this world and in Purgatory) and eternal (the punishment that we would suffer in hell).
- The infusion of grace in the form of sanctifying grace (the life of God within us); the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the three theological virtues.
- Becoming a part of Christ.
- Becoming a part of the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.
- Enabling participation in the sacraments, the priesthood of all believers, and the growth in grace.