During the week of June 14, 2010, the National Hockey League’s (NHL) prized Stanley Cup arrived at the offices of the Chicago Tribune. The Stanley Cup is awarded annually to the NHL championship team (this year the Chicago Blackhawks), and unlike other major league professional sports in the U.S., a new trophy is not made each year.
The Stanley Cup has a history dating back to 1892, and today the Cup is allotted to the winning team for 100 days during the off season. It is always accompanied by a representative from the Hockey Hall of Fame when it goes on tour. In recent years the Stanley Cup has journeyed as far as Afghanistan so coalition troops fighting overseas could see the Cup firsthand.
Staff at the Chicago Tribune swabbed the Stanley Cup to see if the thousands of people that kiss and touch the Cup when it is on tour have left behind the types and levels of microbial pathogens that could make people sick. Because of the high profile publicity, the Chicago laboratory of EMSL Analytical was chosen to test the samples.
To the surprise of many, the laboratory results showed very little bacterial contamination. EMSL reported that only 400 counts of general bacteria were found — while a typical office desk has as many as 10,000.
Considering the number of people that touch the Cup, it was eye opening. According to the curator of the Cup, it undergoes a soft detergent wash once a day and is taken apart and polished twice each year.
“There are a number of employees at EMSL Analytical that are diehard NHL fans,” reported Joe Frasca, senior vice president at EMSL Analytical. “It was a pleasure and an honor to be able to analyze samples from the Stanley Cup. Our laboratory has been called upon by the media to analyze everything from flip flops to diet foods recently, but the Stanley Cup tops it all.”