Alexander Rossi already boasts a sterling silver image of his face on the famous Borg-Warner Trophy adorned with the likeness of every Indianapolis 500 winner.
Now the Andretti Autosport driver can lay claim to spending quality time with another iconic sports trophy, the Stanley Cup. Rossi was a weekend guest of Honda at NHL All-Star Game festivities in Tampa, where he participated in numerous activities involving the trophy awarded annually to the NHL champion.
Among the highlights of Rossi’s adventure in addition to attending the all-star game Sunday at Amalie Arena were:
- Chauffeuring the Stanley Cup around Tampa in a Honda Ridgeline pickup;
- Having the rare opportunity Saturday to carry the Stanley Cup from a helicopter to the pickup, where it was transferred onto one of the participating flotillas in the famous Gasparilla Parade of Pirates that takes place annually in water on Hillsborough Bay, with an accompanying land parade of floats and bands along adjacent Bayshore Boulevard;
- Being interviewed on NHL Network and signing autographs in front of the arena, alongside an INDYCAR show car branded in an attention-grabbing NHL All-Star Game livery;
- Taking in the NHL Skills Competition on Saturday night;
- Meeting St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who won the Passing Challenge in the Skills Competition and who attended the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline last year at Gateway Motorsports Park, where he was thrilled by a ride on the INDYCAR two-seater.
“The NHL All-Star experience has been awesome,” Rossi said Sunday night at its conclusion. “This is really my first full hockey weekend that I’ve ever been to and it was definitely a lot of fun.
“It’s not often that I get to go to a sporting event and be a fan. It was great to experience that and all that goes along with it. To have Gasparilla happen at the same time – this crazy pirate parade in downtown Tampa – kind of added to the allure of it all.”
Rossi, who’ll drive the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda this season in the Verizon IndyCar Series season that opens March 11 in the Tampa Bay area with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, is well versed on the history of the Borg-Warner Trophy after he won the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May 2016.
The 26-year-old Californian received a crash course on the Stanley Cup’s background and the legendary stories of places it’s been from Phil Pritchard and Mike Bolt, known as the “keepers of the Cup” who travel with it – just like the Borg-Warner has its own traveling security duo in AJ Fairbairn and Jason Vansickle.
“The Stanley Cup and the Borg-Warner are by far two of the most famous trophies in sports, but also two of the most well-protected because there’s only one of each of them,” Rossi said.
“It was cool to kind of hear the history of it and its importance. The one thing I have to say about the Stanley Cup that I like is that each of the players get it for a day after they win (the championship). The Borg-Warner, we can’t even really touch. Each has their own culture and history and respect to it. It’s pretty amazing the stories of the Stanley Cup and what the players kind of did to it and mishandled it, if you will.
“It was one of the coolest things that I’ve done in my career, to be able to carry the Stanley Cup from the helicopter to the Honda Ridgeline in order to transfer it to the pirate ship for the Gasparilla Parade.”
Learning that Pietrangelo is a big INDYCAR fan following his visit to last year’s Gateway race was also gratifying for Rossi. It’s a relationship he’d like to cultivate further for the good of both sports.
“We talked about his two-seater ride, he’s a big INDYCAR fan and he loves the Indy 500,” Rossi said. “It’s funny, though. He’s from Toronto and he’s never been to the Honda Indy Toronto, so we’re going to try and get him out there this year and get him to experience what is one of my favorite races in his hometown. It’s another reason why we as the Verizon IndyCar Series and NHL collaborate and do some cross-promotion.”
Rossi is an avid skier but admitted he has never played hockey and his skills would be lacking if he tried – especially after watching the Skills Competition.
“I definitely know I can’t skate, I know I can’t stop a puck, I know I have no puck accuracy, I know I can’t hit a puck very hard, but I definitely know how to pass,” he joked in reference to his racing acumen. His favorite part of the weekend, however, was the main event on Sunday, in which the Pacific Division defeated the Atlantic Division, 5-2, in the final of the 3-on-3 all-star format in use the past three years.
“The game was the coolest part,” Rossi said. “My hockey experience is super limited – I saw part of a Chicago Blackhawks game back in April – so to be able to be here and get a better understanding and appreciation for the sport was really cool. I’ll definitely be watching more hockey games and enjoying the opportunity to go them in the future.”