Filed under: Short Fiction.
Ten years ago today Sunday, August 24, 2003 the following short story, entitled “The Stanley Cup Caper,” was first published, in, of all places, The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation newspaper.
The Star had commissioned this story from me in honour of the fact that the World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon, was about to begin in Toronto. Since it had been thirty years since the Worldcon had last been in Toronto, the editor asked me to predict what Toronto might be like thirty-odd years in the future (in the early 2030s).
When I received the commission, I’d just finished reading Dan Brown’s runaway bestseller The Da Vinci Code (which I had rather enjoyed), and so puzzles and mysteries were very much on my mind. I’m not a hockey fan sacrilege for a Canadian, I know but somehow hit on this premise.
To my delight, the four opening words a riff on famed Canadian sportscaster Foster Hewitt‘s trademark “He shoots! He scores!” are included (along with twenty-two other quotes from me) in The Penguin Dictionary of Popular Canadian Quotations, edited by John Robert Colombo.
Here’s the story:
“She shoots! She scores! For the first time in sixty-seven years, the Toronto Maple Leafs have won the Stanley Cup! Captain Karen Lopez and her team have skated to victory as the 2031 NHL champions. The hometown crowd here is going wild, and wait! Wait! Ladies and gentlemen, this is incredible … we’ve just received word that the Stanley Cup trophy is missing!”
Detectives Joginder Singh and Trista Chong let their car drive them east along the Gardiner Expressway. At Bathurst, the vehicle headed down into the tunnel. Jo shuddered; he hated the underground portion of the Gardiner. Sadly, his fear of tunnels also kept him from using the subway, even though it now ran all the way from Pearson Airport to the Pickering Solar Power Plant.
Still, the one tolerable thing about going underground here was that he didn’t have to lay eyes on the spire of the Quebec Consulate; Trista, fifteen years his junior, didn’t really remember a united Canada, but Jo certainly did.
At Yonge, their car resurfaced. South of them was the Toronto Sun-Star building. But they were going north: their car let them out across the street from the Hockey Hall of Fame. Of course, there was no place to park; the car would just keep driving around the block until they signaled it to pick them up.
Jo and Trista had spent most of yesterday fruitlessly examining the crime scene at the WestJet Centre. Today, they were going to start by having a look at the duplicate Stanley Cup the mockup that was on public display at the Hall of Fame just to get a feel for the dimensions of the stolen object.
Once inside, Jo stood in front of the glass case containing the duplicate, while Trista walked around the case, taking pictures of the duplicate’s engraved surface with her pocketbrain. When she was finished, something apparently caught her eye. “Look!” she crowed, pointing to the adjacent glass case. “There it is taken apart, but there it is!”
Jo glanced at the other case and laughed. “Those are just retired bands.”
Trista made a perplexed frown. “Like the Barenaked Ladies?”
“No. Bands from the original trophy. It always consists of the cup on top and five circular bands forming the cylindrical body.” He pointed back at the mockup. “See? Each of the five bands has room for listing the members of thirteen winning teams. When they fill the last spot on the bottom band, they retire the top one, slide the other four up, and add a new band. Those bands in that other case are the ones that have already been removed.”
Trista took some pictures of the retired bands, then looked back at the mockup, peering at its base. “But the last band on the trophy is already full,” she said.
Jo nodded. “That’s right. They’re going to have to retire the top band this year and start a new one.” He paused. “Seen enough?”
Trista nodded. They exited, crossed the street, and waited for their car to come get them. With the Gardiner buried, it was easy to see the Central Nanotechnology Tower on the lakeshore, but there was no point going up to the observation deck anymore. Jo shook his head; he was old enough to remember when the city’s nickname had been Hogtown, not Smogtown.
The car took them north on Yonge Street, the toll being debited automatically. It had been ten years since GTA amalgamation, combining Toronto with everything from Mississauga to Oshawa. Still, the stolen trophy had to be somewhere inside the supercity’s borders; like every other North American metropolis, T.O. was surrounded by security checkpoints, and something as big as the Stanley Cup couldn’t have been smuggled out.
On their left now was the Eaton Centre. Jo’s sister had a condominium there, in what had once been a Grand & Toy store; with most people shopping online these days, there was little need for big malls. As they continued up Yonge, the towers of Ryerson “the Harvard of the North,” as CNNMSNBC had recently dubbed it were visible off to the right. Jo watched the landscape going by a succession of Tim Hortons donut shops, pot bars, and licensed bordellos. Trista, meanwhile, had her pocketbrain out and was staring at its screen, studying the pictures she’d taken earlier.
Their car turned right onto Carleton, heading towards Maple Leaf Gardens a historic site, which perhaps might hold a clue when suddenly Trista looked up from her screen. “No! Car, turn around head to University Avenue and then go south.”
Jo looked at his partner. “What’s up?”
“I think I know where the Stanley Cup is.”
Trista brought up a map of downtown Toronto on her pocketbrain and showed it to him. “Right there,” she said, tapping a spot on the screen.
“Oh, come on!” said Jo. “Why would they want it?”
“Did you see what was on that band they’re going to retire this year?”
“Thirteen old winning teams,” said Jo.
“Yes but which teams?”
“I have no idea.”
She brought up one of the images she’d taken of the duplicate trophy. “The winners from 1953 to 1965.”
“So I’ve read what’s on all the bands now, including the retired ones. The band they’re about to remove lists the only five-wins-in-a-row Stanley Cup champions.”
“Yes. See? From 1956 through 1960, Montreal won the Stanley Cup every single year, and ”
Jo got it in a flash. “And there’s no way a sovereign Quebec would let the band commemorating that be archived at the Hockey Hall of Fame, which is on Canadian soil. But the Quebec Consulate ”
“Exactly!” said Trista. “The Quebec Consulate is technically Québecois soil.”
Jo frowned. “But we don’t have any jurisdiction on the consulate grounds.”
“I know,” said Trista. “It’ll take some political wrangling between Ottawa and Quebec.”
“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” said Jo.
“What’s that mean?” asked Trista. She was young enough that she hadn’t had to study French in school.
Jo looked out the car’s window as they turned onto University, passing the statue of Mel Lastman. “The more things change,” he said, “the more they stay the same.”
“The Stanley Cup Caper,” copyright 2003 by Robert J. Sawyer. First published in The Toronto Star, Sunday, August 24, 2003, page M1.