By Phil Stacey
BEVERLY — How much did Wendy Rathe want to see the Stanley Cup after her beloved Boston Bruins won it this past June?
She fought for the right to do so.
Decked out in Bruins paraphernalia from head to toe — including an old Ray Bourque jersey with dozens of autographs, a hat, pins, earrings, watch, bag, sneakers, even her leg brace and cane — the Beverly resident proudly showed off her war wound suffered during this year's playoffs: a missing tooth.
"I got into it with a Montreal Canadiens fan during the first round of the playoffs," she said. "That's OK, though; we got the Cup."
Rathe and an estimated 2,000-plus fans were giddy with excitement yesterday as the Stanley Cup came to Beverly High School, where fans could have their photo taken with sport's most famous trophy.
Beverly native Eric Tosi, who works for the Bruins as assistant director of media relations, got to have his day with the Cup yesterday (members of the Stanley Cup winning team and organization get to have their own day with the trophy). As part of his 14-hour window with the silver chalice, he decided to host a fundraiser at the Beverly High School field house for the Benjamin T. Bradley Foundation.
The BTB Foundation was founded 10 years ago in memory of Ben Bradley, a former Beverly High hockey star and, like Tosi, a member of the BHS Class of 1999. He died in an auto accident in April of 2001.
Ben Bradley's parents, Bill and Sandy, and his sisters Erin and Corey walked out onto the field house stage with Tosi holding the Stanley Cup aloft to a raucous ovation.
Corey Bradley, Ben's younger sister, left New York early Sunday morning to be at the field house with her family, while Erin cut short a family trip to Maine.
"What does this mean? It's overwhelming for us," said Sandy Bradley as she watched the crowd waiting to have their photos taken stretch out of the fieldhouse. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and for Eric to think of us and the Foundation ... how do you even acknowledge that? We're so grateful to him.
"Ben would be in his glory today, I know that."
Tosi, who also took the Cup to the Beverly Police station yesterday, took time out to thank everyone that helped make this event at Beverly High possible, from athletic director James Coffey to the many volunteers who agreed to work on short notice during a holiday weekend.
"It's surreal the support we've gotten," said the 30-year-old Tosi. "It all came together so quickly, and everyone that helped has been great.
"When I knew I'd get the Cup, I thought of how I could best use the day and share it with as many people as possible. What the Bradleys have gone through and what terrific people they are ... it was a no-brainer for me to do this for them. That's what it's all about."
Fans from all across the North Shore and beyond, some of whom got in line as early as 4 a.m. Sunday, were able to have their photos taken with the Cup for a $20 donation to the BTB Foundation. Others who donated $5 to the Foundation were allowed to view the Cup from the field house floor and snap their own photos.
Josh Tremblay and Mike Lavoie, two 16-year-olds from Salem, N.H., stayed at Tremblay's grandmother's house in Beverly overnight, got up at 3:30 a.m. and made their way over to Beverly High, where they were the first in line. Nearly eight-and-a-half hours later, they got their moment with the Stanley Cup.
"It's totally worth it," said Tremblay.
Added Lavoie, "The fact that all the players touched this after they won the title and skated with it on the ice ... I mean, how could we not be here?"
Rathe, who was there early as well (7 a.m.), has been going to Bruins games since 1972. When they beat the Canucks in Vancouver in Game 7 for the Cup, she jumped in her van waving her Bruins flag and slapping hands with fans as she drove into the night.
Yesterday, as she waited with friends Karen Wonoski and Mara Cohen, Rathe had a sign ready to hold in front of the Cup. It was for her daughter Amy, stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas studying military intelligence for the Army, reading 'This is for you, Pooh.'
Jorge and Julia Tavares of Haverhill came with their 5-year-old daughter, Julia, who giddily placed her prized Bruins teddy bear in the Cup's bowl for their family photo.
"She doesn't go anywhere without it," said Jorge Tavares of his daughter, who said her favorite player was retired Bruins forward Mark Recchi. "We surprised her by bringing her here — and the surprise worked."
All told, better than $9,000 was raised for the BTB Foundation yesterday.
"I'm ecstatic that I have this day with the Cup," said Tosi, "but what makes me happiest is the joy it brings other people. I feel honored that I could do this for the Bradley family, for the city of Beverly and the hockey community around here."