Tampa Bay Lightning players, coaches and staff members received their 2020 Stanley Cup championship rings Friday in a private ceremony at the home of team owner Jeff Vinik and his wife Penny.
The unveiling was well worth the longer-than-usual wait.
The championship ring is crafted in 14-karat white gold and features approximately 557 diamonds and 81 custom-cut genuine blue sapphires, the combined weight of which is 25.0 carats, making it the largest ring by carets in the history of ring manufacturer Jostens.
"It's huge," Lightning defenseman and 2020 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Victor Hedman said when asked what stood out about the ring the most.
More Info: A first look at the Lightning's 2020 Stanley Cup Rings
But more than the size and number of precious gems, the ring has an abundance of nuances that are unique to the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. On one side of the ring, the Tampa Bay Lightning logo is displayed under the words "CHAMPIONS" and "2020 DISTANT THUNDER", a nod to the fans and the team's playoff motto as all 25 playoff games and 65 days in total were spent in Toronto and Edmonton bubbles, playing in empty arenas but with Bolts Nation cheering on the team from afar.
The other side of the ring features each player's name, along with their number in diamonds. On the bottom of the ring, "GRAVY TRAIN", the Bolts' win song during the 2019-20 season, played as the team entered the locker room after another victory, is displayed.
Engraved inside the ring is 216:14, the number of overtime minutes played during the postseason, most of those coming in the five-overtime Game 1 of a First Round series versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. The inside also displays the results of each playoff round - 4-1 CBJ, 4-1 BOS, 4-2 NYI and 4-2 DAL - and an engraving of each player's unique signature.
And the coup de grace: the diamond-encrusted Stanley Cup on top of the ring can be lifted up and rotated 90 degrees to reveal a black diamond representing a hockey puck and the word "STOCKHOLM", recalling the location of the NHL Global Series games the Lightning took part in against the Buffalo Sabres in early November, a trip that galvanized the team and was the start of them coming together to become the championship group they would finish the season as.
The Lightning swept the Sabres in the Global Series, winning 3-2 November 8, 2019 and 5-3 November 9, 2019. Tampa Bay went 35-16-4 in the 55 games that followed their return from Sweden, the most wins in the NHL over that stretch. They arrived in Stockholm with a losing record at 6-5-2.
"That was a big part of our season was that trip to Stockholm, kind of bonding as a group, won both games," Hedman said. "We just really as a mark in our season we got together."
It wasn't just the championship ring that was elaborate, however. Each player, coach and staff member was presented a box with his or her name on it. The box could only be opened by a special key unique to each one. Upon lifting the lid, the ring was displayed, held in place by a locking clasp, and a video montage of playoff highlights and a message from the Viniks played on a screen on the lid's underside.
"Magical night," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said of the ceremony at the Viniks. "Anytime you go through something like that, it's the memories that you relive. That's the best part. The ring, it exemplified everything that happened to us. It's just magical, the whole event was. The way it was presented, like you couldn't pick it apart, it was just perfect the way the whole thing went down. But, the ring speaks for itself and how it was crafted and the thought that was put into it, it was just beautiful. The memories that it brought back and the videos that were taken, just the whole night, it was a special night."
Typically, teams receive their rings at the beginning of the following season. Pat Maroon got his 2019 Stanley Cup championship ring on the ice in St. Louis during a special pre-game ceremony on November 19, 2019 as it was his return to his hometown city after joining the Lightning as a free agent signing during the offseason.
The Lightning championship ring took a little longer to come together, partly due to COVID-19 restrictions, the unique timing of the following season and the desire of the Viniks to create a design that would change the landscape of championship rings.
Suffice to say, they nailed it.
"It was a very special moment for us," Hedman said of the ceremony. "With this season going on, that was kind of a good break for us to look back at what we accomplished six-and-a-half months ago. To get that ring presented to us by our owner and the generosity, it's out of this world. We're obviously super proud of what we did, and that's another sign of what we accomplished.
"It's going to stay with us forever."