Blackhawks fans are a passionate bunch, so it takes something above and beyond your typical jersey or face paint to stand out in this sea of red. But lifelong ‘Hawks fan Michael Rigitano is anything but typical. After the team won the Stanley Cup in 2010, he exceeded the normal boundaries of fandom and descended into something much deeper. On a dare, he built a life-size replica of Lord Stanley’s Cup — using bottle caps. Many, many thousands of bottle caps.
Since then, the Bottle Cap Stanley Cup has had a life of its own. Rigitano — a college student who also teaches children and adults how to play hockey — and his trophy were guests at the United Center and have appeared on TV, on the radio and in newspapers around Chicago. His creation helped raise money for breast cancer research at a Chicago Steel (USHL) game. The NHL even arranged for the “Cap Cup,” as he calls it, to be photographed with the real deal.
I spoke with Rigitano to learn what drove him to undertake such a monumental task.
Sal Barry: I’m going to just cut right to it — why did you make a replica of the Stanley Cup out of bottle caps?
Michael Rigitano:. I was working in a bar in 2010. It all started with a ten dollar bet that I couldn’t make a Stanley Cup out of bottle caps. I ended up winning that money.
SB: How long did it take to build the Cap Cup?
MR: It took between two and three months in my spare time. I was going to college and working when I made this.
MR: (Laughs). I get that a lot. I had a few, but at the time I worked at a bar as a bar back, so I took bottle caps home after my shift.
SB: Did your coworkers help you?
MR: Not at first. Everyone thought I wouldn’t do it; that I would lose interest. But I stuck with it, and eventually all the bartenders and bar backs and security guys were helping me. After closing, everyone would get on their hands and knees to collect caps off the floor. Or bring in bags full of caps for me from home.
MR: Around 7,000. It’s hollow on the inside, and there are thin strips of plywood to keep it from falling apart.
SB: How did you make the bowl of the Cup so perfect?
MR: I used one of my mom’s cooking bowls, made a shell, took out the bowl and filled the shell with caps.
MR: Trying to get the right dimensions. I tried to get this exactly the same size as the Stanley Cup, but it ended up being a few inches taller. The barrel is a little bigger, too. I didn’t use any framework; I eyeballed it, each cap, one by one, from the ground up.
SB: What did you use to glue it together?
MR: Hot glue. I went through so many packs of glue sticks, it was crazy. I spent a lot of time at Michaels [a craft supplies store].
SB: How many times did you burn yourself?
MR: Quite a few. My fingers were pretty burned and glued up.
SB: Probably from being tired and working on this project at 1 a.m.
MR: Yeah. I was down in the basement, while my parents were yelling at me, “don’t you have homework to do?”
SB: Trying to get another ring on the Cup done before going to bed?
MR: Yeah, before dinner, after dinner, anytime I could. It was my main focus. But I got there. I reached my goal — to have my Cup photographed with the real one.
SB: You were a guest at the Chicago Blackhawks Convention in 2011 and 2013.
MR: Yeah, that was really cool. Both times, the Blackhawks called and gave me a booth at the convention so I could share my Cup with people and share in their enthusiasm. People can’t always have their picture taken with the real Stanley Cup, but they can with mine. I think fans appreciate that. I’m hoping that I get invited to this year’s convention, too, since they won the Cup again.
SB: Would you ever attempt a project like this again?
MR: I thought about it. If I had the time, I’d give it a shot again. Maybe a Super Bowl Trophy if the Bears won. Or another Stanley Cup, but this time the correct size and made out of just silver bottle caps to change it up. ■