PITTSBURGH – Regardless of what happens in Game 5 Thursday night, either the Nashville Predators or Pittsburgh Penguins are going to be in a position to win the most beautiful and hardest-to-win trophy in sports Sunday night. And shortly after that happens – whether it comes Sunday night or next Wednesday – the members of that team will have their names embossed on the trophy by Louise St-Jacques, the official Stanley Cup engraver.
The Predators or Penguins will be the last team placed on the bottom ring of the Stanley Cup and a year from now, that will become very, very significant. That’s because in order to make room for more teams, the top ring of the five that make up the base of the Cup will have to be removed at some point in the next year. Those years encompass 1953-54 through 1964-65, which means some of the greatest players to ever play the game will have their names removed from the trophy forever.
That ring and the 342 names on it will be on display with all the others for all to see at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, but when it comes to actually adorning the trophy itself, we can soon say goodbye to the likes of Gordie Howe, Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard, Bobby Hull and a host of other Hall of Fame players.
Imagine that. Rocket Richard, who has his name on the trophy nine times, including five times in a row with the 1950s Montreal Canadiens dynasty, will be wiped from the Stanley Cup. Richard won eight times as a player and is on the Cup in 1964-65, the last year on this ring, as an assistant to the president. Howe, who was part of the Detroit Red Wings’ 1950s dynasty that won three Cups in four seasons, is also gone, along with Hall of Fame teammate Ted Lindsay and legendary coach-GM Jack Adams. Hull, who won his only Stanley Cup in 1960-61 with the Chicago Blackhawks, is gone along with Hall of Fame teammates Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall and Pierre Pilote.
But Hall isn’t the only all-time great goalie whose name will no longer appear on the Cup. Jacques Plante, whose name is spelled four different ways on the trophy and is one of the greatest to ever play the game, will no longer adorn it. Among his Canadiens Hall of Fame teammates whose names will disappear are seven-time Norris Trophy winner Doug Harvey, along with Emile ‘Butch’ Bouchard, Bernie ‘Boom-Boom’ Geoffrion, Dickie Moore, Bert Olmstead and GM Frank Selke.
Hockey fans will always remember the Hall of Fame players because of their laundry list of accomplishments. But what about the worker bees, players such as Bob Turner, a non-descript, hard-working defenseman who toiled in relative anonymity with the Canadiens’ five Stanley Cup winners? Goalie Roy Edwards, a journeyman whose career was rejuvenated by expansion, has his name on the Cup with the 1961 Blackhawks despite never having played a game with them. Another goalie, Dave Gatherum, played just three NHL games – went 2-0-1 with a shutout – for the Red Wings in 1953-54 and got his name on the Cup by virtue of being called up as a spare goaltender for the playoffs that season.
In 1992, when the Cup reached 100 years old, it had run out of space for names. The trustees of the trophy had to decide whether to start a new Stanley Cup or continue adding rings to make the trophy even bigger, but were convinced to remove rings when Hall of Famer and six-time winner Bryan Trottier said, “It is the perfect size to hold over your head.” That started the tradition that sees a ring replaced every 13 years, meaning a team is on the Stanley Cup for between 52 and 65 years, depending upon its placement on the trophy.
So, alas, time marches on. It will be a little weird to go to look at the Stanley Cup and not see the likes of Richard, Howe and Hull on there, but there will also be a day when Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur, Bobby Clarke, Steve Yzerman, Scotty Bowman, Jaromir Jagr and Sidney Crosby will be removed. Whether their names are on it or not, the players who earned it will still have an accomplishment that nobody will be able to take away from them.
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