Players' Names Get Equal Billing With Teams on the Stanley Cup

Jiri Slegr #71 of the Detroit Red Wings holds the Stanley Cup after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 in game five of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals on June 13, 2002
Dave Sanford/Stringer/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images/NHLI

All sports have their traditions, but ice hockey has some of the best. It was a foregone conclusion in the 1970s that if Kate Smith sang the national anthem, the Philadelphia Flyers would win the game. She was such a good luck charm that one NHL tradition was born—her rendition was eventually recorded so other teams could play it for good luck, too. From fans throwing their hats onto the ice after a hat trick to tapping the goal posts, hockey is full of cool traditional quirks.

Then there's the Stanley Cup.

It's iconic in its own right, but as a bonus, players' names have been engraved upon it over the years. So how does this happen and why? How does a player get his name on the iconic Stanley Cup?

About the Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup is unique in a couple of ways. It's the oldest trophy awarded to any sports team in North America, and it's also the only trophy in pro sports that bears the names of players, coaches, management, and staff from the winning teams.  

The Cup was a gift from Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley in 1892. He purchased it for the equivalent of about $50 in today's dollars with the intention of giving it to a championship Canadian hockey team. The Montreal Amateur Athletic Association won it in 1893. The National Hockey Association claimed it for its teams in 1910, and the Cup then went to the NHL in 1926. The NHL doesn't actually own it. It's more or less on loan to the NHL from its Canadian trustees.

There are three Stanley Cups these days—the original, one that's used for presentations, and a third that sits in a place of honor in the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

The Names on the Stanley Cup

Only players who had completed the Stanley Cup playoffs were eligible to have their names on the Cup before 1977, but that's changed. Today, players appearing in 41 regular-season games for the championship team or in one Stanley Cup final game for that team have their names engraved on the Cup. The NHL makes exceptions for players who do not meet the standard because of injury or other extenuating circumstances.

That's why Jiri Slegr was the luckiest guy in the NHL in the spring of 2002. Acquired by Detroit at the trade deadline, he played just eight regular season games as a Red Wing and did not dress for a single playoff game in the first three rounds. But he was called on to play game five of the Stanley Cup final in place of Jiri Fischer, who had to serve a one-game suspension. So Slegr got his name on the Stanley Cup, and he has a nasty Fischer cross-check to thank for it.

Besides eligible players, the names of the coaches, management, and staff of the winning team are also engraved on the Cup.

Only one name has been added to the Cup against the rules over the years. When the Edmonton Oilers won their first championship in 1984, owner Peter Pocklington included his father's name, Basil Pocklington, among the names engraved. It was later scratched out with a series of Xs.

The Tradition of the Rings 

It takes 13 years to fill a ring on the Stanley Cup with names. When a ring is full, an older ring is removed from near the top of the Cup and put on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame.