panthers room

The Stanley Cup currently is taking a richly deserved breather on Louise St. Jacques’ workbench in Old Montreal, ready this week to once again feel the silversmith’s familiar hammer and metal letter punches.

Within a few days, the historic trophy will include 52 names of Florida Panthers players and staff, the 2023-24 champions joining 58 other teams on the barrel’s five lustrous bands.

“It’s a great part of hockey history,” said Phil Pritchard, the Hockey Hall of Fame curator who’s best known as the white-gloved “Keeper of the Cup.”

The priceless trophy logged more than 12,000 miles between Edmonton and South Florida last month. It then flew out to Las Vegas for the NHL Awards and 2024 Draft before returning to Florida, bar-hopping and celebrated in the Panthers’ raucous victory parade and rally Sunday.

panthers finns

Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov (holding Stanley Cup) with fellow Finns (from left) Niko Mikkola, Eetu Luostarinen and Anton Lundell during the team’s championship parade.

The Stanley Cup crossed the border between the United States and Canada five times during the seven-game Final, the Panthers on June 24 finally winning their first championship in their 30th year of existence.

The trophy has been going at warp-speed ever since.

For two days and nights, the Cup was toted around South Florida by players as popular, well-refreshed show-and-tell. It went for a dip in the Atlantic Ocean, was used as a serving bowl for Panthers legend Roberto Luongo’s pasta and pizza, and never was it thirsty.

Pritchard wrestled it, gently, away from the winners on the morning of June 27 for a flight to Las Vegas, where it was showcased for two days before returning to Florida on June 29.

panthers split

Florida Panthers forwards Carter Verhaeghe (left) and Ryan Lomberg enjoy a wet Stanley Cup parade on June 30, 2024.

Then came the Panthers’ wild, soggy, two-mile parade, thousands of fans celebrating with their heroes up to, including and well after a rally on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Also featured in the parade was the Prince of Wales Trophy, won by the Panthers for the second consecutive season as the NHL’s Eastern Conference champion.

“Even Mother Nature is a hockey fan in South Florida. She showed up for the parade bringing a thunderstorm,” Pritchard joked Tuesday from Toronto, catching up on laundry after a month on the road.

Three or four more events followed Sunday’s parade and rally, Pritchard said, “ending up in a bar in Fort Lauderdale with the team.”

On Monday morning, he and fellow Hall of Fame trophy bodyguard and tour guide Mario Della-Savia packed the Stanley Cup for a flight to Montreal, met upon arrival by St. Jacques for the trophy handoff.

Cup silversmiths

Carl Poul Petersen works on the Stanley Cup in his Montreal studio, likely in the early 1960s, and Louise St. Jacques with the trophy in 2014. She has been the Cup’s silversmith since 1989, adding team and player names for the past 35 years.

“We had a little impromptu meeting with Louise at the side of the road at the airport, she took the Cup from us and we flew back to Toronto,” he said.

Pritchard had spoken with the Panthers on Tuesday and said the team hoped to have its 52-name list submitted to the NHL within a day or so. Once approved by the office of Colin Campbell, the League’s senior executive vice president of hockey operations, the list would go to St. Jacques and her painstaking work would begin.

“Louise can do a bit of it now,” Pritchard said. “But adding the names, the biggest part of her work, can’t be done until she has the list.”

St. Jacques will first disassemble the trophy, repairing any damage and polishing its silver and nickel alloy. Then she’ll bolt the bottom band to a vise on her workbench, “2023-24 FLORIDA PANTHERS” and 52 names to be carefully hammered -- not engraved -- into hockey history.

Pritchard hopes to return to Montreal next week to reclaim the updated trophy and take it back to Fort Lauderdale, where celebrations will resume.

2018 Capitals

Silversmith Louise St. Jacques adds the 2017-18 Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup, gently hammering names into the silver-nickel alloy with a hammer and metal letter punches.

This is the second year that St. Jacques has done her work before the Cup’s summer travels, Vegas Golden Knights president of hockey operations George McPhee making the suggestion last spring for his victorious team.

It’s something that Pritchard and Craig Campbell, his fellow white-gloved Hall of Fame executive, have wanted to do for years.

“What George did is amazing,” Pritchard said of McPhee’s request. “It gives the (Cup caretakers) a chance to get home, and it gives winning players and staff the opportunity to see their names when they have their day with the Cup. I think George started an instant tradition last year. It’s a natural, a no-brainer.”

The 2023-24 Panthers will be the seventh team to be added to the bottom band of the Cup, joining the 2017-18 Washington Capitals, 2018-19 St. Louis Blues, 2019-20 and 2020-21 Tampa Bay Lightning, 2021-22 Colorado Avalanche and 2022-23 Golden Knights.

Bobrovsky split

Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky on the ice of Amerant Bank Arena on June 24, and on stage during a June 30 victory rally on Fort Lauderdale Beach following the team’s Stanley Cup victory parade.

Six more will be added through the 2029-30 season, at which time the band will slide up one position, a fresh band added to the bottom, the top band removed and retired to the vault of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Thirteen teams on the top band will leave the trophy: the Montreal Canadiens (1966-68-69-71-73-76-77-78), Boston Bruins (1970, 1972), Philadelphia Flyers (1974, 1975) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (1967). The Flyers and Maple Leafs will leave the Cup entirely unless they win before 2029-30.

It will be first band retirement since the fall of 2018, teams from 1953-54 through 1964-65 removed at that time. Extraordinarily, 12 teams were on that band, not the usual 13; for a reason no one can explain, the wider entry of the 1964-65 Canadiens took up twice the normal space.

The names of 14 Hall of Fame players, winners of a combined 56 championships, came off the trophy in 2018. The band carried the names of the finest clubs and greatest players of the so-called Original Six “Golden Era” that spanned the 1950s into the pre-expansion mid-1960s: six Canadiens teams, including their historic run of five straight from 1956-60, then 1964-65; three consecutive Maple Leafs, from 1962-64; the Detroit Red Wings of 1953-54 and 1954-55, and the 1960-61 Chicago Black Hawks.

pritchard vegas

Phil Pritchard, the Hockey Hall of Fame’s curator and “Keeper of the Cup,” poses for a photo with the Stanley Cup during the NHL Foundation reception at Wynn Las Vegas on June 27.

But that’s part of the beauty of the Stanley Cup. The historic trophy might be made of precious metal from the lip of its bowl to the bottom of its barrel, but in fact it’s organic, an evolving celebration of hockey’s championship teams and players, its shape and face having changed many times during its remarkable lifetime.

Now, 30 years after having joined the NHL, the Stanley Cup is about to welcome the Panthers.

“Thirty years ago, the League, fans and historians never would have thought of the Stanley Cup in South Florida,” Pritchard said. “Now we’ve been there three times in five years. It’s become a thing now, it seems.

“More rinks are coming, there are more hockey fans, more kids want to play. It’s great for the state of Florida and it’s probably even better for the state of hockey.”

Top photo: Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov carries the Stanley Cup into his team’s Amerant Bank Arena dressing room following their Game 7 victory against the Edmonton Oilers on June 24.