The NHL season is over, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have won their second straight Stanley Cup. They beat the Nashville Predators in six games, and so now their names will be engraved on the Stanley Cup for all eternity.
Or, well, for the next 53 years at least. In 2070, if things continue as they do now and there are no stoppages, the band containing this year’s Pittsburgh Penguins team—as well as the 12 previous Stanley Cup winners—will be removed from the Cup and stored in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
The Stanley Cup did not always look as it does today. Originally called the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, the first Stanley Cup was just a bowl. One of the original conditions of the cup was that “each winning team [could] have the club name and year engraved on a silver ring fitted on the Cup.” At first teams only occasionally did this, and some early engravings are on the bowl itself or on the band attached by the Montreal Hockey Club.
Basically, engraving was spotty until the Montreal Canadiens added a new band in 1924. The original Ottawa Senators, in 1923, are the last team to not have their names engraved on the Cup. But beginning with that Canadiens team, each team to lift the Stanley Cup added a band with the names of players and team staff members. The Stanley Cup got so tall it was nicknamed the “Stovepipe Cup” because it began to resemble an exhaust pipe. (Other nicknames: cigar cup, elephant leg cup.)
Clearly, a redesign was in order. So in 1948, the Stanley Cup was changed: The base of the “Stovepipe” cup was moved to the top, and the bands were refashioned. The Cup had a new design, similar to the one today.
But when members of the Montreal Canadiens had their names engraved on the Cup in 1956, the new Stanley Cup was full. So the cup was redesigned again: Five equal-sized bands, with room for 13 teams on each one. The first band contained the 1928 New York Rangers to the 1940 Rangers, the second band had the 1941 Boston Bruins to the 1953 Canadiens, et cetera. There were two blank bands for future teams.
For some (possibly French) reason, the 1965 Canadiens used double the space. So instead of filling up in 1992, the 100th anniversary of the Cup’s creation, the Stanley Cup was full in 1991 when the Penguins won their first Cup. The next year, the NHL removed the 1928-1940 band, shifted the old bands up and began a new one when the Penguins won again. The league removed the 1941-1953 band after the Carolina Hurricanes won the cup in 2006. (The league did not award the Stanley Cup in 2005 due to the owners’ lockout; this is reflected in the “2004–05 Season Not Played” engraved on the cup.)
The 2017 Penguins will be the last team engraved on the current bottom band of the Stanley Cup. When the cup is engraved for the 2018 Stanley Cup champions, the top band—containing winners from 1954 to 1965—will be removed. This means hockey legends like Gordie Howe and Rocket Richard won’t have their names on the cup after next season, though their names will remain on display on those bands at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
(To note here: There is more than one Stanley Cup, and the top parts of the Cup are replicas—created when the original cup and top bands were deemed too fragile to keep on the actual trophy. The original cup and bands, as well as a replica cup, are also on display at the HHOF.)
But what about the question asked in the headline: How tall would the Stanley Cup be if the NHL never removed old bands from the cup? Per the Hockey Hall of Fame, the bands of the cup put together are 46.35 centimeters. Divide that by 5, and you get 9.27 cm.
The Stanley Cup is currently 89.54 cm (roughly two feet, 11 1/4 inches tall). If the older bands had never been removed, it would be 18.54 centimeters taller, bringing the Cup’s height to 108.08 centimeters (about three and a half feet). After the 2018 Cup champions are added, it would be 117.35 cm (about three feet, 10 inches).
So without the removal of the old bands, the Stanley Cup wouldn’t be that much taller right now. Players would still be able to hold it, though it would be a lot more awkward than the current 3-foot, 34.5-pound cup.
But what if the Stanley Cup never changed from the “stovepipe cup” era and each team got its own band? Per this children’s book and a 2012 paper by Pier Paolo Tamburelli, “The Stanley Cup: an Inquire into the Essence of Monumentality,” the stovepipe cup was about the same height as the redesigned cup we know today. Assuming each new team’s band was an inch tall, that would’ve added another 69 inches or so to the cup’s height (nice!). That puts our hypothetical stovepipe cup at around eight feet, nine inches tall!
So it wouldn’t top the Toronto skyline. But a non-redesigned Stanley Cup would be unwieldy for just one person to carry. Requiring the whole team to carry the Stanley Cup would’ve been another good hockey tradition. The NHL should’ve done it.