Daly hands Stanley Cup to Avalanche in Bettman’s absence

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TAMPA, Fla. — NHL Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly presented Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog with the Stanley Cup Friday night due to commissioner Gary Bettman being sidelined by the coronavirus.

Bettman recently tested positive and didn’t have enough negative results to return to the series in time. This required Daly to give the traditional closing speech and shake hands with Landeskog before presenting the trophy.

It is the first time since taking office in 1993 that someone other than Bettman has presented the trophy. A league spokesman said Bettman is resting at home and feeling better.

After Landeskog took his lap, the trophy quickly went to some of Colorado’s senior players and first-time champions, including Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson and Andrew Cogliano.

“The older guys who are probably nearing the end and getting their first chance to win the trophy can only see the excitement,” said general manager Joe Sakic.

Erik Johnson, the Avalanche’s longest-serving player after arriving in a trade from St. Louis in 2011, considered retiring last year. After changing his mind, he got the trophy first, noting that it was “heavier, thanks, you think.”

“It was like watching a video game or something,” Johnson said. “It’s been wonderful. Gabe has been telling me for the past few years, ‘If we win it, you get it first.’ If that doesn’t give you motivation to do it, nothing else will. Just a super humbling, satisfying feeling, it’s amazing.”

Jack Johnson and Cogliano were newer additions, but the feeling was the same. Cogliano was allowed to lift the trophy for the first time at the age of 35.

“It’s been a long journey, but that’s exactly why you put in the work,” said Cogliano. “That’s why you’re staying. That’s why you keep playing and keep grinding for that special moment.”

One of Sakic’s trade deadline pickups who helped propel Colorado to the top, Cogliano doubted throughout his career that he would ever get to that point. The trading of Anaheim made everything possible.

“You don’t know,” said Cogliano. “By the deadline there I was fortunate to be in a position where they needed someone to come in and play a part and I came in and did that. I fit in with the guys right away. I was already friends with ( Nathan MacKinnon ) and guys on the team and it just felt like a seamless fit to be honest and it worked out perfectly.”

Some Avalanche players like Nazem Kadri had no trouble winning the Stanley Cup despite battered and bruised hands from various playoff injuries.

Kadri was playing with multiple broken bones in his right thumb after being knocked off the boards in the final round by Edmonton’s Evander Kane in a game that resulted in a one-game suspension.

Andre Burakovsky, one of only two Colorado players to previously win the trophy alongside veteran Darren Helm, missed Game 6 after taking a puck on his right hand earlier in the series.

Key players on each team were injured during the Finals, but Tampa Bay winger Pat Maroon said people would be amazed at the toll they took in their 23 postseason games against the Lightning.

Coach Jon Cooper said he wasn’t sure the team would ever make it public, although he conceded it would be a lengthy report.

“In the regular season, half the minor league team would have played,” Cooper said.

Forward Brayden Point has missed 14 of Tampa Bay’s last 16 games after injuring his right leg in Game 7 of the Lightning’s first-round win over Toronto. Forwards Nikita Kucherov and Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Erik Cernak all returned from injuries that knocked them out of parts of games during the series.

Lightning winger Corey Perry became the first player since 1970 to lose three straight years in the Stanley Cup Finals. He is the first in NHL history to do so with three different teams, having lost to Tampa Bay in each of the previous two seasons, first with the Dallas Stars and then with the Montreal Canadiens.

“Corey Perry, it’s no coincidence that he’s going into the finals,” Cooper said. “The kid is a winner.”

AP sportswriter Fred Goodall contributed.

Follow AP Hockey writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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