So long, Gordie Howe.
Bye-bye, Bobby Hull.
Au revoir, Maurice Richard.
Those Hockey Hall of Famers and the rest of the players who won an NHL championship from 1954-65 are being stripped off the Stanley Cup this spring to create room for a new layer of names without making the trophy too big to be skated around the ice by the winning captain or checked on an airplane for its next journey.
“People in Saskatchewan are a little upset Gordie’s name is coming off, but that’s the tradition,” said Mike Bolt, one of the Hall of Fame staffers assigned to escort the Cup around the world. “It can’t get any bigger … We wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
Perhaps the most iconic trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup is unique among major prizes because the NHL passes it from team to team instead of producing a new one for every champion. It’s also the only one that includes the name of every player to win it in each season — though the names come and go.
Since it was first donated in 1892 by Lord Stanley, the governor general of Canada, the Cup has grown from a seven-inch-high bowl to a three-foot trophy more the size of a large wedding cake, with three small layers under the original bowl and five more bands under that that fit about 13 years of champions apiece.
The top one of those bands, honouring much of Toe Blake’s Montreal Canadiens dynasty and three of Punch Imlach’s four titles in Toronto, will be removed in a matter of weeks. It will be flattened and displayed along with two previously retired rings — covering the 1927-40 and 1941-53 championship teams — at the Hall of Fame in Toronto. (In place of the name-by-name listing, teams are engraved on the upper rings.)
The process will need to be repeated every 13 years, meaning a player’s name lasts on the Cup a maximum of 65 years.
“I run into some of the older timers, like from the ’70s, even the ’80s. They’re always like, ‘Hey, Mike. How many years have I got left on the Cup?”‘ Bolt said. “Some guys start doing the math: ‘Oh, I won’t be around anyway.’ But if you win it when you’re young, you’re going to be around when your name comes off.”