(October 9, 2003) Henri Richard has his name engraved on the Stanley Cup eleven times. Yvan Cournoyer's name appears nine times. Joe Nieuwendyk has taken the Stanley Cup home three times representing three different franchises while Scott Niedermayer has taken the Stanley Cup back to Cranbrook, BC three times, all as a New Jersey Devil. But there is one person who gets the Stanley Cup every summer, year after year. Her name is Louise St. Jacques.
Louise St. Jacques is the person who engraves the names on the Stanley Cup. Each September, she collects the Stanley Cup and takes it to her studio at Boffey Promotions in Montreal. Through the year, Boffey Promotions does all manner of metal engraving, from jewellery to watches to special corporate gifts, but in the month of September, Louise St. Jacques, who is a partner in the business, knows that she will have but one focus - the Stanley Cup.
"I started working at Boffey Promotions part-time. I was getting trained while I was going to university," starts the charming engraver, who laughs and jokes, "I got so good, they had to hire me!"
There have only been four official engravers of the Stanley Cup. "Doug (Boffey)'s father, Eric, used to be the official supplier for the NHL," explains Louise. "On his father's retirement, Doug didn't want to get into the family business, so the work was given to Mr. Peterson." Carl Peterson was the first to official engrave the Stanley Cup, followed by his son Arno. "When Mr. Peterson died (in 1977), the contract changed hands and they gave it back to Doug, who had changed his mind and decided to continue his father's business. Boffey has been engraving the Stanley Cup for around twenty-five years." Doug Boffey engraved the Cup for a number of years, a role that now rests in the capable hands of Louise St. Jacques.
"When we get the Cup, we remove all the bands," explains Louise. "I work only with the band, not the cylinder." The Stanley Cup is carefully disassembled, separating the bowl, the neck and the five rows of rings that make up the body of the trophy. The Cup is hollow, but has a cylindrical foundation that keeps the trophy sturdy through months of carrying, traveling and being passed from celebrant to celebrant.
The names that go on the Stanley Cup are submitted by the winning team to the National Hockey League. There are specific criteria for approval - games played during the regular season; games in the final. Then, once approved, the list is given to St. Jacques. "Before engraving, I go through the list, count all the letters and make certain they will all fit into the space allotted." The NHL will allow no more than fifty-two names, and in 2003, the New Jersey Devils submitted and had approved fifty-two names.
The band being engraved is clamped onto a circular jig that creates a steel background for stamping. Special hammers of different weights are used to strike against a letter-punch to sink each letter into the silver. "They give me at least a week to do the engraving. It's very stressful -- you don't want to make a mistake. I don't want to hear the phone ring or have anybody come by while I'm engraving the Stanley Cup." Louise works for ninety minutes, then takes a break. Each name takes approximately a half hour to inscribe. "I just do a little bit at a time," admits St. Jacques. "The entire Cup takes around ten hours, but that's not continuous."
"I double check on the spelling of every name. If it's not a name I'm used to, I check again," says Louise. She can't afford to make a mistake. "The sterling (silver) is soft, so if I had to, I could remove an error by banging the letters from behind but that would take an awful long time." Louise St. Jacques uses a small hammer and series of letter stamps to inscribe each name, plus a line held with a piece of metal to keep the names as straight and level as possible. Louise adds, "Each letter is done individually. I rely on my eyesight to make sure that the letters are spaced all the same."
Once a ring is filled with the names of championship teams, which will take place next year after the 2004 Stanley Cup winners are engraved, the bands on the Stanley Cup are moved. "I remove the upper band and it goes to the Hockey Hall of Fame," explains St. Jacques. "Rim number two goes to number one - they all move up one and we add a new band at the bottom of the Cup."
Louise St. Jacques loves hockey. "From living in Quebec, I'm automatically a hockey fan," she chuckles, but the statement is absolutely true. "I grew up watching Guy Lafleur and that whole gang. It was a magic time to be a hockey fan growing up in Montreal." But the apple doesn't fall far from the tree -- Louise has an eight-year old son, Eric James, who is also a hockey fan. "He's just starting to play hockey and loves it. But he's really funny when he sees the Stanley Cup," smiles a proud mother. "He calls it, 'My Cup.' He says, 'Mama, there's my Cup on TV!' But he's grown up with the Stanley Cup. One year, I was working on the Stanley Cup when he was just three weeks old." Each year, Louise takes a picture of her hockey-loving son in his hockey sweater. "It's great to see how much he's grown by standing beside the Stanley Cup."
On Monday, September 29, having just left Boffey Promotions in Montreal, the Stanley Cup went with the New Jersey Devils to visit President Bush at the White House in Washington, DC. There, the New Jersey Devils, for the first time since winning the NHL's championship on June 9, got the opportunity to read, see and touch their names on the Stanley Cup. Fifty-two names, immaculately and indelibly etched for all time one-thirty-second of an inch deep into gleaming sterling silver.
"It is a privilege to engrave the names on the Stanley Cup," smiles St. Jacques. "A real honour. It is exciting every single time!"
On Thursday, October 16, the New Jersey Devils will host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first home game of the 2003-04 season, and will take the opportunity to share the raising of a banner and the newly-engraved Stanley Cup with fans in the Continental Airlines Arena. Join the Stanley Cup Journal Friday, October 17 to discover whether the Cup's presence in New Jersey will smile favourably on the New Jersey Devils.
Kevin Shea is a hockey journalist in Toronto.