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Stanley Cup getting makeover for Capitals celebration

Top band coming off, Washington names being added by Montreal silversmith

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

MONTREAL -- The Stanley Cup is home from its summer on the road, and now on the workbench of Montreal silversmith Louise St. Jacques.

It is being cleaned and polished, and by the weekend it will have the 2017-18 champion Washington Capitals tapped into a fresh bottom band, the first of 13 teams that will be added to the sterling trophy between now and 2031.

The new band will retire the one that's currently on top, one that salutes champions from 1953-54 to 1964-65. That one now comes off, bound for display in the vault of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

 

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"If all goes well, Louise will be finished Sunday afternoon sometime," Hockey Hall of Fame curator Phil Pritchard said from his Toronto office Monday. "We'll come to Montreal to pick it up and take it to Washington, where the Capitals will have their Stanley Cup ring ceremony next Monday at 5 p.m. That will be the first official function for the Cup after we have it back from Louise."

The Capitals have furnished their list of 52 names, the maximum for addition to the Cup, to St. Jacques, who will indent each number, letter and punctuation mark into the silver with pegs tapped gently with a hammer.

St. Jacques first will finish her work on the Cup, then restore the removed top band before sending that to the Hall of Fame. In the weeks ahead, the shrine will announce its plans to install the retired band in the vault of the Hall with two others that have been similarly removed, facing the original, delicate 1892 Stanley Cup bowl that is displayed under glass. The Capitals will donate a Cup ring to the Hall when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 21, so a band ceremony seems likely to be organized for then.

Pritchard is hopeful that St. Jacques' week won't be overwhelming. The Cup was sent to her Monday in good shape after its summer of partying in North America and Europe, and its historic first trip to China for the 2018 O.R.G. NHL China Games between the Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames.

The black base shows the most wear, but Pritchard says that's normal, with the Cup being picked up and put back down, sometimes not gingerly.

"That's not the fault of the Capitals, of any player or person," he said. "Louise has two bases, maybe more, that she rotates onto the bottom of the Cup from year to year."

The Cup was brought to St. Jacques' home early Monday, delivered by caretakers Mike Bolt and Howie Borrow, who had driven up after having spent a few days with the trophy at Kraft Hockeyville USA in Clinton, New York.

The Cup then was taken to St. Jacques' Montreal studio to begin the painstaking work of taking it apart, restoring it, adding the Capitals and reassembling it.

And what a delightful coincidence it was that Bolt and Borrow had stayed Sunday in a downtown Montreal hotel that was a slap shot across Peel Street from the historic Club Sportif Montreal AAA, the oldest athletic club in Canada, founded in 1881, with a remarkable link to the Stanley Cup.

The Montreal Hockey Club, representing Montreal AAA, was the inaugural winner in 1893 of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, which would become known as the Stanley Cup. The trophy, then a simple silver bowl, was commissioned in 1892 by governor general Lord Stanley of Preston to be his gift to Canada, honoring the country's best amateur hockey team. Montreal AAA teams would win the Cup again in 1894, 1902 and 1903.

On Monday at 7:45 a.m., Montreal AAA president and general manager Pierre Blanchet welcomed Bolt, Borrow and the Stanley Cup for what would be the trophy's final photos before it was delivered to St. Jacques.

The trophy was placed on a table between two rows of fitness equipment, beneath a huge photo of the 1893 champions with the original Stanley Cup bowl sitting in front of the players. The team was nicknamed the Winged Wheelers for its logo and the club's cycling roots.

James Norris, a Montreal AAA player for a few games in the 1890s, renamed his NHL Detroit Falcons in 1932, calling them the Red Wings, and he adopted the winged logo, tilting it on its side and modifying it slightly for his newly branded team as a tribute to Motor City.

Club members posed for photos with the Cup on Monday, and a few more pictures were taken in Blanchet's office and on the stairs of the grand clubhouse, which opened in 1905. Forty-five minutes after arrival, the Cup was back in its case, being rolled out the door for delivery to St. Jacques.

"The Cup wasn't damaged this summer and that was our goal," Pritchard said. "We just want to make sure it's looked after."

On a Montreal workbench, with experience, gentle hands and plenty of polish, St. Jacques again will make it look as good as new, or better.

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