The Stanley Cup is the symbol of hockey. It's image is more powerful than any memory of Bobby Orr flying through the air, Wayne Gretzky pausing just for a second before unleashing a slap shot, or Patrick Roy's last second glove save. The only image in hockey as powerful as the Stanley Cup may be that of pick up game on a frozen pond.
What if I told you that the NHL wanted to completely revamp the Stanley Cup, making it look like something completely foreign to any hockey fan anywhere?
Of course, there would be mass outrage at any such notion. But the Stanley Cup has a long history of transformations over the years. In fact it looks nothing like the Stanley Cup teams originally competed for over 100 years ago, or even 60 years ago.
While it may be hockey's enduring symbol, the Stanley Cup has undergone several significant changes in size and shape over the years. Though Lord Stanley of Preston donated his Cup in 1892, the Cup as we know it today only dates back to 1957.
The original Stanley Cup consisted of nothing more than the bowl, as pictured. The original bowl sits upon a stand in glass-encased display at the Hockey Hall of Fame. It was retired in 1970 because it was becoming too brittle. A replica now sits upon our beloved trophy.
As more and more teams began winning the Cup, some teams added a ring to the base of the Cup, as suggested originally by Lord Stanley himself. Up until the 1920s, the Cup looked pretty much like what the top third of today's Cup.
The Stovepipe Cup
Which brings us to the Stovepipe Cup. From the years of 1927-1947, the winning team would add their ring nearest to the bowl, pushing down the previous winners. The Stanley Cup was a long, narrow trophy, looking quite ridiculous to more modern fans, as if it were a stove's chimney pipe.
The original Cup, the bowl on top, was actually detachable, as demonstrated in the following picture by Lester Patrick, who is using it as a makeshift head piece:
The Cup reached it's limit after 1946, when the victorious Montreal Canadiens could not engrave their names or add any others to the Stanley Cup.
The years immediately following World War II were the most interesting for the Stanley Cup. Trustee Cooper Smeaton wrote to his colleague P.D. Ross "As you know, the Cup now rests on a very ugly looking, elongated base and it occurred to me that it might be possible to get Henry Birks for instance, to design a nice big base which would permit space for sufficient shields."
Hockey's Golden Book?
Ross' reply was "why not have Birks make a new base, with a receptacle in the base for a "golden book" to record all the past and prospective winnings of the Cup? The book would only need to be of moderate size, a hundred pages or so, with the base detachable from the Cup of course, for purpose of transportation."
Fortunately the NHL did not approve that idea. Instead, in 1947, they hired Carl Poul Petersen, a world famous silversmith who moved from Denmark to Montreal, to redesign the Stanley Cup as we now know it.
The birth of the modern Stanley Cup
This is the Stanley Cup circa 1955. It looks very similar to the trophy we all know and love, but there are some striking differences.
Most notable are the bands. Notice how uneven they are? A closer look reveals each team branded the Cup in their own fashion, creating no uniformity like there is nowadays. Also the base is quite different.
So what happened to Peterson's original Cup redesign?
The modern Cup was perfected in 1957 for the purposes of uniformity. The original bands are now on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Mr. Peterson was once again called upon to refurbish the trophy. In 1968 he duplicated the trophy's bowl, the original Stanley Cup, and by 1970 the original was retired forever.
The Cup has remained the same ever since. In 1994 an entire replica Cup was produced so that a version of the Stanley Cup could always be on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame even when the original is being presented to the players or travelling the world.