Changing of the rings - Stanley Cup winners from 1941-53 bumped to Hall vault

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

This year it came to an end for the 13 championship teams from 1940-41 to 1952-53, their ring on the storied trophy retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame's vault to make room for a new crop of winners.

The new ring added to the base of the Cup in time for the start of the current season includes two entries: one for the 2005-06 champion Carolina Hurricanes; and another that reads simply, "2004-05 Season Not Played."

The old ring was recently flattened out and placed in a glass display found in the vault where the original Cup donated in 1892 by Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, Lord Stanley of Preston, is also housed. It joins several other bands of different shapes and sizes from previous incarnations of the Cup.

The Cup's current form - with a bowl, three tiered bands, a collar, and five uniform rings - went into circulation in 1958. This year marked just the second time a ring was retired to the vault, joining the 1928-40 band that was bumped to make room for the 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins.

"It's just part of the evolution of the Stanley Cup," says Phil Pritchard, the Hall of Fame's curator and the so-called keeper of the Cup. "It's one of those things that adds to its tradition and aura."

Indeed, but losing one's place on the Cup isn't always easy to take.

Hall of Famer Andy Bathgate helped the Toronto Maple Leafs capture the trophy in 1963-64 and isn't happy that the band they're on is due to be retired after 2017-18 season.

"That's what you work for all your life, that's the ultimate for us, regardless of personal trophies and all that, being on the Stanley Cup is what it's all about," says Bathgate. "It's not the same (being in the vault). It's something that came to me once in a lifetime, hockey fans who follow it know you're in there but people who are one-time (visitors) at the Hall of Fame, they take a look and attach your name to winning it.

"If it's not there they'll never know."

And for the Maple Leafs, losing the latest ring removed six championships from the Cup. Only four of Toronto's 13 Cup wins remain on the trophy, reinforcing the club's 40-year drought to long-suffering fans.

"They have to do that otherwise they wouldn't be putting the new teams on," says Leafs forward Chad Kilger. "It's just a natural progression of the Cup, I don't think it's anything people should be upset about.

"There are lots of players who are going to win after you."

Bathgate, who scored 349 goals with 624 assists in 17 NHL seasons, would rather see new rings continually added to the display Cup at the Hall of Fame, with the presentation Cup kept within the current specifications.

That way, players who win a championship would never have their name removed from the trophy.

"I think you earned it," he says. "It doesn't matter how big the trophy gets. It's a very difficult thing to accomplish.

"I know they move the Stanley Cup around a lot now and they need something a little more compact. . . . But it should be there. That's the least they could do for the old guys."

Pritchard understands that point of view and points out that, "the whole history and what it means and the tradition and the honour is all still there."

And he also relates something former New York Islanders great Bryan Trottier told him.

"He said at three-feet high and 35 pounds it's the perfect size to hold over your head and hoist it," recalls Pritchard. "It's pretty hard to argue with a guy that's won the Stanley Cup six times. Obviously that's not the reason why it was done, but that kind of sums it up greatly in one sentence."

Maple Leafs defenceman Pavel Kubina, who won the Cup in 2003-04 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, can live with the range of 53 to 65 years teams get on the trophy.

"That's a long time," he said. "They put you in the Hockey Hall of Fame after so then you're pretty much out there for the rest of your life and other lives to come.

"I never knew any of the traditions (before he won). Some of my teammates told me how it works and I know you're on there for a long, long time. It's awesome."

The Maple Leafs' fading past on the Cup is less of a concern for the current crop of players. In a fishbowl market where even the most mundane of happenings gets analyzed to death, new coach Paul Maurice has done a nice job of insulating his players from fan pressure.

"We would love to win for the fans and ourselves. That's enough weight, there's no more room on that bus," says Maurice.

"To be honest with you, it may be more of a motivator. It may be a situation where, the players in that room and certainly as a staff, we're excited that it could be us. It's a positive now more than a negative. It's a negative in terms of the Leafs fans who have suffered through it but everybody in hockey knows that if you can be the team that wins it next, it would be pretty darn good."



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