Gordie Howe’s name to disappear from Stanley Cup

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

The Red Wings have lost a lot, lately. And they are about to lose Gordie Howe’s name on the Stanley Cup.

Ted Lindsay’s too. Ditto, Alex Delvecchio.

And two of their all-time greats, the goaltender Terry Sawchuk and the defenseman Marcel Pronovost, will remain on the Cup. But as Maple Leafs, not Wings.

Why? Space.

When the names of the 2017 Penguins are engraved as Stanley Cup champions, the last bit of vacant, silver open space on the bottom ring of the cup will be filled. As is tradition, the top ring will be removed and placed on permanent display at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

A new bottom ring, vacant except for the 2018 winning team, will be affixed next spring.

Five rings make up the base of the Stanley Cup. And, while it is not always noted prominently, a ring is removed every 13 years and kept on display.

In fact, Howe, Lindsay and Pronovost already had their first two Stanley Cups, from the Red Wings 1950s heydays, 1950 and 1952, removed in 2005. Only 1954 and 1955 remained.

Howe, Lindsay, Pronovost, Red Kelly, Marty Pavelich and Johnny Wilson were the six Wings to win four Stanley Cups in that era, as players. Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty achieved the same status in the history of the franchise in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.

For all of the great Red Wings of the 1950s, when they and the Canadiens dominated the NHL, the engraving of their last two Stanley Cups will remain for just one more season, before they are removed from the cup and displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

As The Hockey News reported last week, the Red Wings are not the only great players disappearing from the cup.

Two of their great nemeses also will be gone, too; Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Bobby Hull.

It was Richard’s career goal record that Howe broke.

Donated by Lord Stanley of Preston, then-Governor General of Canada, to award Canada’s top-ranking amateur ice hockey club, which the Stanley family supported, including by playing and promoting the game, the first Cup was awarded in 1893 to Montreal HC.

From 1893 to 1914 winners were determined by challenge games, after league play.Pro teams were first eligible in 1906.

In 1915 the National Hockey Association and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association agreed, orally, their champions would play annually for the Stanley Cup.

Then, after some years of upheaval among leagues and franchises, the Stanley Cup became, by tradition and inertia, the championship trophy of the NHL in 1926. Two years after World War II, in 1947 — and coincidental with Howe’ rookie season — the trophy was adopted by league rule.

There are three Stanley Cups: the original bowl of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, the authenticated Presentation Cup and the Replica Cup, displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame, in Toronto.

Many hockey fans argue it is the most attractive of the four championship trophies in the four major professional leagues in North America. It is the only one not manufactured new every season.

But that leads to the space problem.

Among the other all-time greats whose names will disappear from the five-ring base of the Stanley Cup and put on permanent display in the Hockey Hall of Fame are the seven-time Norris Trophy Winner Doug Harvey and two goalies in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall, who began his career with the Red Wings.

At the current rate of use and by the same customs and traditions, the five Red Wings who are four-time Stanley Cup winners of the 1990s and 2000s will be off the base of the cup in 2060.