With every passing year, I look at the world around me take note of all the changes. A new restaurant across the street. New leadership at work. A new grey hair on my head. Change is inevitable. It’s all around us.
Hockey is not immune to this. Every year, there are rule changes, roster changes, coaching changes. Out with the old, in with the new, as they say.
But hockey does a very good job of remembering its past, even with all of this change. Retired numbers, championship banners… hell, they have a whole building dedicated to preserving the history of the game and remembering its legends. The Stanley Cup is the only championship trophy in professional sports that remembers the teams who have won it before. Every year, the championship team’s name is etched into a panel on the legendary trophy, immortalized in hockey history beside those who came before them.
Unfortunately, the trophy is only 35″ high and hockey has a long history. It, along with everything else, must undergo change.
To make room for the 2017-18 Washington Capitals, a fresh strip of silver and nickel alloy must be added to the bottom of the trophy. That means the top strip has to come off.
It’s a strip that holds some meaning to Red Wings fans as it contained the names from the 1954 and 1955 championship teams. These were two of the four Stanley Cups that the team won in a six year stretch from ’49 to ’55. It was also the last Cup the team won before a 42 year drought that ended in 1997 with Steve Yzerman.
Perhaps more legendary than the team itself, though, were the individuals who were on it. Names like Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Alex Delvecchio are all coming off of the Cup this year. There’s nothing more to be said about players like these that hasn’t already been said before. As good as they were players on the ice (and they were some of the best of all time), they were even better people off of it.
The Wings aren’t the only ones stung by this either. The Montreal Canadiens dynasty team of the 1950s, coached by the great Toe Blake, is part of the same strip of panels as that Red Wings team. Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, Jean Beliveau and Claude Provost are all coming off. Not to mention Henri Richard, Doug Harvey and Jacques Plante. Man, that team was stacked.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are also losing three panels that include names like Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich and George Armstrong.
Though this strip of legends is coming off the Cup, it is not disappearing forever. When strips are removed every thirteen years, they are put on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame where fans can admire them in a room that houses all of hockey’s trophies.
Removing all of these names from the Stanley Cup feels wrong and unexpected. These are legends who contributed so much to the game that we know and love today. Just as we weren’t ready to say goodbye to Gordie in June of 2016, we’re not ready to see his name disappear from the ultimate trophy.
That’s the thing about change, though. You can’t always be ready for it.
This trophy tells the story of hockey’s champions and new legends get to have their names etched into its side every year. Seeing these names disappear off the Cup is a reminder of how, just as the times change, so does the game.