Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 2009, 27

Carl Peterson was the first to officially engrave the Stanley Cup.
(HHOF Archives)
Henri Richard has his name engraved on the Stanley Cup eleven times. So does Scotty Bowman. But there is one person who gets the Stanley Cup every single summer, year after year. Her name is Louise St. Jacques.

Louise is the person who engraves the champions' 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," explained the delightful engraver, who laughed and continued, "I got so good, they had to hire me!"

Louise St. Jacques of Boffey Promotions removes the bottom ring from the Stanley Cup before engraving the team's names. (HHOF Archives)
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," explained 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.

The process is fascinating, but nerve-wracking for Louise, who insists on working without anyone nearby. "When we get the Cup, we remove all the bands," she explained. "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.

For nineteen years, the hands of Louise St. Jacques have methodically engraved the names of every Stanley Cup champion into Lord Stanley's Cup. (HHOF Archives)
The names that go on the Stanley Cup are submitted to the National Hockey League by the winning team. 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.

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," she admitted. "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," said 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 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. She 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 took place after Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in 2004, the bands on the Stanley Cup are moved. "I remove the upper band and it goes to the Hockey Hall of Fame," explained 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."

SEPTEMBER 29 - A first look at the engraving of the
fifty-two member Pittsburgh Penguins on the bottom
ring of the Stanley Cup. (HHOF Archives)
That leaves the bottom ring of the Stanley Cup ready for its latest additions. That band will now be the home of the names of the reigning Stanley Cup champions, The Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Louise St. Jacques loves hockey. "From living in Quebec, I'm automatically a hockey fan," she chuckles. "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 a fifteen-year-old son, Eric James, who is also a hockey fan. "He's playing hockey and loves it. But he's really funny when he sees the Stanley Cup," smiles the 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."

The names of the Stanley Cup champions are immaculately and indelibly etched for all time one-thirty-second of an inch deep into the gleaming sterling silver of the Stanley Cup. "It is a privilege to engrave the names on the Stanley Cup," smiles St. Jacques. "A real honour. It is exciting every single time!"

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On Tuesday, we'll report on attending the Pittsburgh Penguins' home opener, and the banner raising ceremony, and get the players' reactions to seeing their names on the Stanley Cup for the first time.

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Kevin Shea is the author of 'Summer With Stanley', a chronicle of the Pittsburgh Penguins' championship summer.

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