TAMPA — Hockey people like to say theirs is the best trophy in sports. That’s because other leagues hand out a duplicate trophy each season, while the NHL awards the same Stanley Cup to its champion year after year.
That famed trophy is now making its way around Tampa Bay.
The Lightning brought it home with them Tuesday, the day after they beat the Stars in six games in the Cup final, and they have displayed Lord Stanley at Amalie Arena, during a boat parade in Tampa, on Alex Killorn’s Sea-Doo, at Raymond James Stadium, at Tampa restaurant American Social and Avila Golf & Country Club in Tampa, for starters.
Here are some things to know about this beloved trophy:
How big is it?
The Stanley Cup is 34½ pounds of silver and nickel alloy, and stands 35¼ inches tall. It’s hollow, but it does sink, so it’s a good thing no one dropped it in the Hillsborough River during the boat parade.
Where did it come from?
Lord Frederick Stanley, the governor general of Canada in the 1890s, donated the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup to hockey in Canada because his kids played the sport. He bought the bowl that sits atop the many rings of the trophy in London and brought it to Canada in 1892.
Is this really the same trophy?
No. In 1970, the original bowl was retired because it was too brittle to stand up to travel. That bowl now lives at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
There are two versions of the Cup. The “Presentation Cup” is the one in Tampa. It is what you might think of as the “real” Stanley Cup, awarded to the champion and also on display at various events. There is a “Replica Cup” that remains in the Hall of Fame, on display when the “Presentation Cup” is not there.
So what do teams keep when the Cup goes back to the Hall?
Each team gets a replica Stanley Cup, which is a little shorter than the real trophy, that they get to keep on display at their arena. Each player also receives a smaller replica.
Whose names go on the Cup?
The rings around the trophy have panels for each winner, each engraved with 52 names from the winning team. Any player who played in the Stanley Cup final must be included, but other than that, it’s up to the organization.
The Lightning don’t know whose names they will put on the trophy. They had 52 people in the playoff bubbles, but that group didn’t include owner Jeff Vinik, for example.
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Who engraves the Cup?
Technically, the Cup is stamped, not engraved. There are two fonts, one for team names and one for the individuals, and each letter is hand punched. A company in Montreal, Boffey Promotions, has handled all the engraving and created the current bowl. There have been four engravers, the current one a woman, Louise St. Jacques. And yes, there are spelling errors on the Cup.
What happens when they run out of room?
Not every team that has won the Cup is on the trophy. During the 1992-93 season, the Cup’s 100th birthday, the decision was made to maintain the trophy’s current height. Hall of Fame forward Bryan Trottier, who won the Cup six times in his 18-year career, had mentioned it was the perfect size to lift over your head. So every 13 years, the top ring is removed and put on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame, with a new one added to the bottom.
What if the Cup gets damaged?
It happens. Over 128 years, the Cup has been dropped, fallen on, knocked into corners, etc. The rings can be taken apart and the Cup put back into shape, at the expense of the organization that damaged it.
Does the Cup get cleaned?
Yes, frequently. Even before there was a pandemic, cleaning the Cup was a necessity.
People eat and drink out of it. They put their babies in it, and sometimes said babies leave behind evidence.
It’s cleaned before each event.
Who takes care of the Cup?
The “Keepers of the Cup” are employed by the Hockey Hall of Fame. Phil Pritchard, who is currently in Tampa, is the most recognizable of the keepers. They travel with the Cup — it used to get its own seat on planes but now is checked — and are present wherever it is.
Who gets to touch it?
The keepers wear white gloves to handle the Cup so when it is first presented to the winning team, the first fingerprints on it are from the commissioner and the team that has won it.
When the Cup is on display to the public, people are allowed to touch it, but they cannot lift it. Lifting the Cup is reserved for those who have won it. But hockey lore says someone who touches the Cup but has not won it will never win it.
As for the players who win the Cup, they can do anything with it. The keepers don’t like to see it disrespected, but players have earned the chance to do as they wish.
2020 Stanley Cup victory print: Lightning championship poster coming to Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times newspaper