In my opinion, the Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in all of sports.
For those who tune in for the Stanley Cup finals each spring, they get to see the presentation of the Dominion Challenge Cup, named for Lord Stanley of Preston, who served as Governor General of Canada. The original trophy, comprised of a bowl, was first awarded in 1893.
What sets the Stanley Cup apart from most championship trophies is that the names of players and team officials from the winning franchise are inscribed on it. Throughout its history, the Stanley Cup has undergone numerous changes in design and appearance to its current shape of a bowl, three expanding rings and five bands of equal size under those.
Each band has room for 12 or 13 teams to be inscribed on the cup. When the last space on a band is filled, the oldest band is removed and a new one is added. The first band retirement occurred in 1991 following the Pittsburgh Penguins’ championship. It was decided to maintain the five bands of equal size instead of adding more bands to keep the size of the trophy at just over 35 inches tall and weight at roughly 35 pounds.
With the crowning of the Washington Capitals as Stanley Cup champions this season, another new band will be added, and the band listing the champions from the 1953-1954 to 1964-1965 seasons will be retired for display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
With the removal of this band, the trifecta of famed no. 9s — “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe, Maurice “Rocket” Richard and “The Golden Jet,” Bobby Hull — will no longer appear on the trophy. From 1953-1954 to 1964-1965, the Montreal Canadiens captured the cup six times. The Toronto Maple Leafs won it three times in that span. The Detroit Red Wings were two-time winners and the Chicago Blackhawks won once.
The original bowl resides in a vault at the Hockey Hall of Fame, having been replaced for fear of permanent damage or loss. When Capitals captain Alexander Oveckhin hoisted the Stanley Cup, he was lifting the second edition, known as the “presentation cup.” This version is also used at various Stanley Cup promotions, including a visit to the Allen County Memorial Coliseum in March. A third version also exists for display in the Hockey Hall of Fame whenever the presentation cup is being used for promotions.
When the Stanley Cup came to Fort Wayne, Joleen and I were there, and had our photo taken wearing home and road versions of Canadiens jerseys in honor of my favorite NHL team. We didn’t touch the cup — it’s a tradition that if you’ve never won the cup, you don’t touch it out of respect.
The Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup a record 24 times, including one before the formation of the National Hockey League. As a result, Canadiens players are the most prominent on the trophy. Henri Richard, younger brother of “The Rocket,” won it 11 times as a player. Teammates Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer won the cup 10 times each and Claude Provost was a nine-time champion. Counting his time as a member of Canadiens’ management, Beliveau’s name appears 17 times.
Red Kelly, who won the cup four times each with Detroit and Toronto, is the most decorated non-Canadiens player. “The Rocket” and Canadiens player Jacques Lemaire also won the cup eight times in their careers.
Each winning team is allotted 100 days during the off-season for a parade and for each player and staff to have a day with the trophy, accompanied by a representative of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Canadiens last won the cup in the 1992-1993 season. The Maple Leafs have hoisted the trophy 13 times, but not since the 1966-1967 season. The Red Wings are 11-time cup champions, followed by the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins with six each. The Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins have won five championships each.
Longtime Bruins defenseman Raymond Bourque didn’t get to raise the trophy until his 22nd and final season, after he had been traded to a team with a better chance to win.
There’s a reason why you see players crying when they raise the trophy. In today’s NHL, it takes 16 wins over four playoff rounds. Some players win it on their first try. Others have to wait until the latter stages of the careers. Many, many more never win it or get to play for it.