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Stanley Cup winners Gaye Stewart and Marcel Pronovost (1978 Honoured Member) take part in the formal retirement ceremony of the Stanley Cup's upper bowl band containing the names of the 1940-41 � 1952-53 Stanley Cup winners.
The Stanley Cup, when first donated to hockey in 1893 by Canada's sixth governor general, Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley, was nothing more than an elaborate punchbowl. But its significance, and its size, increased exponentially through the years.

Today, that original Stanley Cup resides permanently in the Hockey Hall of Fame. But the Stanley Cup we see presented each spring to the Stanley Cup champions by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is a design known and adored today by hockey fans around the globe. This modern design emerged in 1947 after the unwieldy stovepipe design (long and more narrow) was altered by engraver Carl Petersen to the style that has remained the same to this day.

The Stanley Cup consists of a bowl, with three smallish bands below, a fourth band that consists solely of the 1923-24 Montreal Canadiens, a collar dedicated solely to team names from 1893 to 1992, and a base that is made up of five rings, each consisting of thirteen Stanley Cup championship teams, their management and players. But after the Tampa Bay Lightning earned the championship in 2003-04, the last remaining spot on the bottom ring was taken, and left the National Hockey League with a minor dilemma. With the lock-out that erased the 2004-05 season, the league had two years to reach a decision on how to handle the situation.

See the recently retired Stanley Cup band that
includes championship teams from 1940-41 to 1952-53
which was officially placed on public display in
the NHL Zone on Saturday, March 10.

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  • The design of the Stanley Cup has been acknowledged as 'perfect' by players and fans alike. Standing 35.25 inches tall, the design is recognized world-wide and is one of the true icons of sport. Because of its age, legacy and shape, the Stanley Cup has an aura about it that no other sport can claim. It is also one of the few trophies on which the champions have their names engraved.

    There was never a discussion about extending the length of the Cup in order to add an additional ring. The answer was simply to remove the top ring, move each of the following four rings up one spot and then add a new ring to the bottom of the Stanley Cup's base. And that is exactly what has occurred.

    The ring that was removed consists of the thirteen teams that won the Stanley Cup between 1940-41 and 1952-53. That ring, flattened out and destined to be permanently displayed at the Hockey Hall of Fame, contains some of hockey's most treasured memories.

    By retiring that band, a sizeable portion of Toronto Maple Leafs' history will be removed from the Stanley Cup. The first Toronto Maple Leafs' dynasty will long be remembered through history, but will no longer grace hockey's greatest prize. Toronto won the Stanley Cup in 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951, so of the thirteen championship teams contained on that ring, the Maple Leafs took the biggest hit, having six championships disappear from the Cup.

    In 1941-42, the Leafs staged the greatest comeback in hockey history, seemingly pinned to the mat by the Detroit Red Wings with little hope for recovery. Yet, after losing the first three games of that spring's Stanley Cup final, Toronto roared back, winning the next four straight and earned the Stanley Cup.

    In 1944-45, the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup for a second time that decade, although because the Second World War was raging in Europe at that time, the team roster was substantially different than the one that won in 1942.

    The Maple Leafs won three consecutive championships beginning in 1946-47. Then, after losing out in the semi-finals of 1950, Toronto came back to win the Stanley Cup again in 1951. Among those who were part of all four championships are Turk Broda, Ted Kennedy, Howie Meeker, Jimmy Thomson and Harry Watson. Tragic young Leaf hero Bill Barilko, who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime in 1951, was part of those four championships in his five-season NHL career before disappearing without a trace during the summer of 1951 while returning from a fishing trip to northern Quebec. Never to be forgotten, in part because his sweater number 5 has been retired by the Maple Leafs, Bill Barilko's name will no longer be engraved on the Stanley Cup.

    Both the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Canadiens have had three championships disappear from hockey's Holy Grail. The Red Wings won the trophy in 1943 with a squad that included Hall of Famers Sid Abel, Ebbie Goodfellow, Syd Howe and 'Black Jack' Stewart. The team won the Cup again in 1950 and 1952, and the Production Line of Abel, Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay led the way, joined by Red Kelly on defense and Terry Sawchuk in goal.

    The text "2004-05 Season Not Played" is permanently engraved on the Stanley Cup and acknowledges the
    season not played due to a labour dispute.
    The Canadiens have lost the presence of their 1944, 1946 and 1953 championships. The Punch Line of Maurice Richard, Toe Blake and Elmer Lach ruled the ice for those first two championships on a team that also featured Bill Durnan in goal. In 1953, The Rocket and Lach were joined by the nucleus of a dynasty that arrived later that decade — Jacques Plante, 'Boom Boom' Geoffrion, Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson and Dickie Moore.

    The 1940-41 champions were the Boston Bruins, featuring the Kraut Line of Milt Schmidt, Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart. Dit Clapper, the first and only player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame before retiring (although others like Guy Lafleur and Mario Lemieux would come out of retirement to continue their playing careers after their inductions) was captain of that squad. Bill Cowley led the league in scoring that season and was named recipient of the Hart Trophy. Roy Conacher, one of three brothers inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, was a high-scoring forward for the Bruins, while Frank Brimsek, 'Mr. Zero,' was their star goaltender. The Bruins wouldn't win another championship until the Bobby Orr era, waiting 29 years before collecting the Cup again in 1970.

    The bottom ring now contains the engraved names of each member of the 2006 champion Carolina Hurricanes. But that is not the only engraving on that bottom ring. After much discussion, the 2004-05 campaign has been acknowledged in spite of the fact that the season was not played due to a labour dispute. That was only the second occasion in which the Stanley Cup was not presented. In March 1919, the Stanley Cup final between the Montreal Canadiens and the Seattle Metropolitans was abandoned when an influenza pandemic struck the hockey world, felling many Seattle players but devastating the Canadiens, who watched as star Joe Hall and manager George Kennedy both died of the Spanish flu. That season is recorded on the Stanley Cup simply as: 1919, Montreal Canadiens, Seattle Metropolitans, Series Not Completed. The engraving for 2004-05 records the season for posterity by reading: Season Not Played. "The year off is a part of hockey history," states Phil Pritchard, Curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame. "The inscription regarding 2004-05 is not only for the people of today, but for the people 50 years from now. The Stanley Cup inscriptions tell the entire story of the trophy, not an abridged version."

    The next ring will be replaced following the 2016-17 season when the bottom ring will be filled with the missed 2004-05 season as well as the subsequent twelve Stanley Cup winners. At that time, the twelve winners on that ring will be retired. Yes, ordinarily it takes thirteen teams to fill a ring but the Montreal Canadiens of 1964-65 took two spaces for their engraving. Those removed at that time will begin with the Detroit Red Wings of 1953-54 and continue through to and include those same 1964-65 Canadiens. Saying goodbye to the Stanley Cup at that time will be six Montreal Canadiens' championships, including their extraordinary dynasty of five straight Stanley Cup victories beginning in 1956, Toronto's three consecutive Cup wins that started in 1962, two championships won by the Detroit Red Wings and the 1961 Stanley Cup championship won by the Chicago Black Hawks.

    And, if all continues according to schedule, this year's engraving of the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes will remain on Lord Stanley's glorious legacy until after the winner of the 2069 Stanley Cup championship is decided. Hopefully, 99-year-old captain Rod Brind'Amour will be on hand to observe the special occasion!

    Kevin Shea is the Hockey Hall of Fame's Editor of Publications and Online Features.

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