Does The Stanley Cup Get Bigger? Will It Run Out of Space?

by Simon Naylor | Updated On: March 26th, 2020
stanley cup

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The Stanley Cup is seen as the best and most recognizable trophy in professional sports. The NHL is also famous for its practice of engraving directly onto the trophy the names of players on Stanley Cup-winning teams. But what happens when the Cup runs out of free space? Do they erase the old names? Does the Cup get taller? Are the bands replaced? This article will investigate the behind-the-scenes management of the Stanley Cup.

The Stanley Cup’s body contains five bands that can each fit the names of 13 teams per band. A new band is required for the Cup every 13 years when the bottom band is filled. The top band is then removed, and the new band is added to the bottom for the names of the next 13 winning teams. The top band is sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame -- this ensures that the cup will not run out of space.

What Is The Stanley Cup?

The Stanley Cup is the trophy awarded to the team that wins the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals each season. The Stanley Cup winner is the champion for that season and holds the title until a team wins the next year.

The Stanley Cup predates the NHL. It has its origins in the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup of 1892, which was an amateur hockey tournament at the time.

The trophy was donated in 1892 by Lord Stanley of Preston, who was then the Governor General of Canada. The Stanley Cup, of course, gets its name from its donor, Lord Stanley.

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At the time, however, the Cup contained only the bowl portion (that today tops the trophy) and one ring. A second ring was added only in 1909.

As decades passed, new bands were added to the trophy to include the names of winning players.

The Stanley Cup’s present-day appearance arrived in an updated version of the trophy in 1958. This new trophy featured a five-band barrel-style body that is topped with the bowl and several smaller collars.

How Do Stanley Cup Bands Work?

In its present-day form, the Stanley Cup is mounted on a body of five large bands. Each band can contain the names of players from 13 Stanley Cup-winning teams – this means that the Cup is engraved with the names of up to 75 years of winning teams at one time.

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Each year, when a team wins the Stanley Cup, all the players on the team have their name engraved in an open spot on the bottom band.

When the bottom band is filled, the top band is removed, and the other four bands move up. A new band is then added at the bottom, where the names of the next 13 winners will be engraved.

The first time the Stanley Cup was fully engraved was in 1991. At the time, the NHL decided to start replacing the bottom band rather than simply adding onto the Cup and making it taller.

The last time a band was removed was in 2018 after the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. The winners from the 1953-54 to 1964-65 seasons had their band removed to make room for a new band with names of the Cup-winning Capitals team.

The next time the top band will be removed is after the champions of the 2029-30 season have their names engraved on the current bottom band.

When the top band is removed, it is sent for preservation to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario.

Who Gets Their Name Engraved on the Stanley Cup?

The NHL has particular rules about whose name is engraved on the Stanley Cup.

The history of this engraving goes back to the Montreal Wanderers in the 1907 season.

Earlier teams had engraved their team name and championship year on the Cup, but the Wanderers were the first to engrave all the players’ names onto the trophy. They did so on the interior bowl portion of the Cup.

This engraving practice occurred occasionally after the Wanderers’ 1907 win, but the act became tradition in 1924 and thereafter.

To earn a spot on the Stanley Cup, a player must meet one of a few standards.

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First, the player must be on the Stanley Cup-winning team’s roster when they win the Cup. Then, the player must either have played in at least one Stanley Cup Finals playoff game, or in at least half of the team’s regular season games.

So, for example, a player who plays over half the season but is traded before the playoffs would not qualify for the Cup because they aren’t on the team’s Finals roster.

The backup goaltender, however, is credited for “playing” a game even if they don’t enter the net during the game.

In addition to the players, team ownership, upper management, and coaching personnel also get their names engraved on the Cup.

Because the names are permanently engraved, there are some famous errors where player and team names are misspelled on the Cup. These have sometimes been corrected in the 21st century.

Who Engraves the Names on the Stanley Cup?

The NHL is particular about how the names are engraved on the trophy for its top team.

Over the league’s history, only four people have engraved names onto the Stanley Cup. Presently, an engraver named Louise St. Jacques performs the task.

The Secret Life of the Stanley Cup

St. Jacques has been the Stanley Cup’s name engraver since 1989. She estimates that it takes around 10 hours to engrave on the Cup a full team’s list of names.

St. Jacques dismantles the trophy and clamps the band she’s working with to complete the engraving. She does this each September, after the players have all had their individual day with the Cup in private.

The NHL takes seriously the history and preservation of the Stanley Cup. The trophy has evolved since its 1892 creation, and it is amended with the names of new Stanley Cup champions every season. The Cup no longer changes size, however. When it is filled with names every thirteen seasons, the top band is removed, and a new band is added to the bottom of the Cup.

Hope that gives you the answers you need -- if you enjoyed reading this -- give it a share.

Do Cup Winners Still Get a Ring?

Ever wondered if the winners still get gifted commemorative Stanley Cup rings? Yes they do -- but they have changed massively over the years.

Check out this full guide to Stanley Cup Rings and the fascinating story behind how they’re made. With some valued at over $30,000 just in materials and workmanship -- let alone their historical value.

Simon, the founder of Brave Stick Hockey, started playing hockey in 2003. He launched this website in 2018 to help new hockey players and fans learn more about the game and have more fun while learning.