Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 2010, 34

Before begins engraving, Louis St. Jacques goes through the submitted list and counts all the letters and makes certain they will all fit into the space allotted. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
Winning the Stanley Cup is an arduous task. Jean Beliveau won ten Stanley Cup championships as a player and another seven as an executive. Henri Richard has his name engraved on the Stanley Cup eleven times, all as a player. Including 2010, Scotty Bowman has his name engraved on the Cup nine times as a coach and three times as a player. But there is one person who gets the Stanley Cup every single summer, year after year. Her name is Louise St. Jacques.

Louise is the person who engraves the champions' names on the Stanley Cup. Each September, after the winning team has passed it from player to player, she collects the Stanley Cup and takes it to her studio at Boffey Promotions in Montreal. Through the year, Boffey Promotions does all manner of metal engraving, from jewellery to watches to special corporate gifts, but in the month of September, Louise St. Jacques, who is a partner in the business, knows that she will have but one focus — the Stanley Cup.

"I started working at Boffey Promotions part-time. I was getting trained while I was going to university," stated the delightful engraver, who laughed and continued, "I got so good, they had to hire me!"

There have been just four official engravers of the Stanley Cup through its glorious history. "Doug (Boffey)'s father, Eric, used to be the official supplier for the NHL," explained Louise. "On his father's retirement, Doug didn't want to get into the family business, so the work was given to Mr. Peterson." Carl Peterson was the first to officially engrave the Stanley Cup, followed by his son Arno. "When Mr. Peterson died (in 1977), the contract changed hands and they gave it back to Doug, who had changed his mind and decided to continue his father's business. Boffey has been engraving the Stanley Cup for around twenty-five years." Doug Boffey engraved the Cup for a number of years, a role that now rests in the capable hands of Louise St. Jacques.

The process is fascinating, but nerve-wracking for Louise, who insists on working without anyone nearby. "When we get the Cup, we remove all the bands," she explained. "I work only with the band, not the cylinder." The Stanley Cup is carefully disassembled, separating the bowl, the neck and the five rows of rings that make up the body of the trophy. The Cup is hollow, but has a cylindrical foundation that keeps the trophy sturdy through months of carrying, traveling and being passed from celebrant to celebrant.

Scotty Bowman has his name engraved on the Stanley Cup a total of twelve times (Paul Bereswill/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The names that go on the Stanley Cup are submitted to the National Hockey League by the winning team. There are specific criteria for approval -- games played during the regular season and games in the final. Then, once approved, the list is given to Louise St. Jacques. "Before engraving, I go through the list, count all the letters and make certain they will all fit into the space allotted." The NHL will allow no more than fifty-two names.

The band being engraved is clamped onto a circular jig that creates a steel background for stamping. Special hammers of different weights are used to strike against a letter-punch to sink each letter into the silver. "They give me at least a week to do the engraving. It's very stressful -- you don't want to make a mistake. I don't want to hear the phone ring or have anybody come by while I'm engraving the Stanley Cup" Louise works for ninety minutes, and then takes a break. Each name takes approximately a half hour to inscribe. "I just do a little bit at a time," she admitted. "The entire Cup takes around ten hours, but that's not continuous."

Louise uses a small hammer and series of letter stamps to inscribe each name, plus a line held with a piece of metal to keep the names as straight and level as possible. She adds, "Each letter is done individually. I rely on my eyesight to make sure that the letters are spaced all the same."

The 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks engraved on hockey’s most sought after prize. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
Once a ring is filled with the names of championship teams, which took place after Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in 2004, the bands on the Stanley Cup are moved. "I remove the upper band and it goes to the Hockey Hall of Fame," explained St. Jacques. "Rim number two goes to number one -- they all move up one and we add a new band at the bottom of the Cup."

That leaves the bottom ring of the Stanley Cup ready for its latest additions — reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

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While each engraver has been meticulous in their work of adding the current Stanley Cup champions to the Stanley Cup, through the years, a few errors have occurred. The 1937-38 edition of the Black Hawks (note different spelling at that time) had Pete Palangio's name engraved twice - once spelled correctly and once spelled as 'Palagio.' The 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs also featured their goaltender twice on the Cup, once as Turk Broda and again as Walter Broda (his given name). Gaye Stewart's given name was engraved as 'GAVE' for the Leafs in 1946-47. There were two errors for the Red Wings in 1951-52. Coach Tommy Ivan was engraved as 'NIVAN' while Alex Delvecchio became 'BELVECCHIO.' Between 1956 and 1960, the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup five successive seasons, and netminder Jacques Plante had his named engraved five different ways! The Toronto Maple Leafs became the 'LEAES' in 1962-63. The Boston Bruins were surprised to discover they were the 'BQSTQN' Bruins in 1971-72. Bob Gainey is immortalized as Bob 'GAINY' for the Montreal Canadiens win in 1974-75. Ooops! The New York Islanders are the New York 'ILANDERS' for 1980-81. In 1982-83, Peter Pocklington, the owner of the Edmonton Oilers, added his father's name to the engraving list. But Basil Pocklington had no affiliation to the team so the NHL ordered that his name be removed from the Stanley Cup. It was -- through a series of 16 Xs through his name! In 1995-96, Colorado's Adam Deadmarsh had his surname spelled 'DEADMARCH,' an error that was corrected. Manny Legace's last name was corrected for Detroit in 2001-02 after it was originally engraved as 'LAGASE.'

All of these tiny flaws simply add to the allure of the Stanley Cup's legacy. "I double check on the spelling of every name. If it's not a name I'm used to, I check again," said Louise St. Jacques. She can't afford to make a mistake. "The sterling (silver) is soft, so if I had to, I could remove an error by banging the letters from behind but that would take an awful long time."

Kris Versteeg taking a moment to look at the names engraved on the Stanley Cup from previous years.
(Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Unfortunately, this year, there was an error for the Blackhawks, too. Kris Versteeg had his last name incorrectly engraved as 'VERTSEEG.' Ironically, when Kris was enjoying his day with the Stanley Cup in Lethbridge, Alberta this summer, his brother had an omen that the family name would be engraved incorrectly. "We were all sitting as a family around the Stanley Cup in the living room, looking at all the misspelled names," Kris told the Toronto Star. "My brother was like, 'I guarantee they spell our name wrong!'"

The error was corrected before officially presented to the Hawks before their home opener and banner raising. "I think they just kind of punched (the correct letters) over it," Kris told The Star. "It's kind of funny. I may never be one of the biggest names in the game, but now it'll go down in history as one of the misspells on the Stanley Cup, so I'll take it!"

The names of the Stanley Cup champions are immaculately and indelibly etched for all time one-thirty-second of an inch deep into the gleaming sterling silver of the Stanley Cup. "It is a privilege to engrave the names on the Stanley Cup," smiled Louise St. Jacques. "A real honour. It is exciting every single time!"

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On Friday, The Stanley Cup Journal returns with a story on how the Wirtz family enjoyed their celebration with hockey's greatest prize.

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

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