Quick history of the NHL Stanley Cup rings
[Originally published on Hockey Digest in May 2003 by Randy Schultz – page doesn’t exist anymore]
NASHVILLE PREDATORS color analyst Terry Crisp is one of the lucky ones. Lucky in the fact that he has three Stanley Cup rings. If there is one thing that an NHL player wants just as much as his name on the Stanley Cup, it’s a Stanley Cup ring. Crisp won two rings as a player with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1974 and ’75. He won his third as head coach of the Calgary Flames in 1989. “Those rings mean a lot to me,” Crisp says.
“They are a constant reminder to me of what success can bring to you in the NHL. Having my name on the Stanley Cup three times is the ultimate. But the Rings are just as good. Stanley Cup tings never go away. They are kept within a family, going from generation to generation. That’s what’s going to happen with mine.”
John Bucyk, a member of the Boston Bruins title teams in 1970 and ’72, received his two tings late in his playing career. “It was better late than never,” Bucyk says.
“Today, the ring is quite the conversation piece. I wear one of mine all the time. With the rings today, you can’t miss them. People will come up to you, and look at it, and ask what sport you played in. Then they want to know who you are. It’s quite an honor.”
Perhaps Buffalo Sabres color commentator Jim Lorentz, who won a title with the Bruins in 1970, sums up a player’s feeling about winning a ring best: “Having your name on the Stanley Cup is the greatest honor a player can ever have. But you don’t always get that chance to see the Stanley Cup. Any NHL team that is considered a serious Stanley Cup contender, has to build the cost of championship rings into their budget.
And that is no small amount of money. The average cost for championship rings today is between $20,000 to $25,000 per ring. Including players, coaches, staff, and others, handing out rings can cost a team upwards of $1 million.
Surprisingly, the history of Stanley Cup championship rings goes all the way back to 1893, the first year of the Stanley Cup. After the Montreal AAA’s won the initial Cup, the club presented each of its seven players with a ring inscribed with MHC (Montreal Hockey Club) and crossed hockey sticks. The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto has one of those original rings in their collection.
Each player treats his ring a little differently. Some wear them all the time, while others store them in a safety deposit boxes. St. Louis Blues left wing Shjon Podein won a title with the Colorado Avalanche last season. When Podein was presented his ring earlier this season, he wouldn’t put it on. Podein believed the honor of being the first person to slip the ring on belonged to his grandfather John Podein. “This is where it starts–our own Podein ring,” Shjon wrote in a note to his grandfather.
“It has to start somewhere special, and there is no better place than yourself. This ring has never been worn. After you, my dad will carry it on, and then to me, my son, and so on. Wear it proud.”
Podein says his grandfather got teary-eyed when he put the ring on. “I thought it would be kind of neat to have something in our family that was passed on through the generations,” Podein says.
Not every Stanley Cup champion has awarded rings to its players. The AAA’s gave out watches (then valued at $190) after winning the second-ever Cup. The 1915 Stanley Cup champions, the Vancouver Millionaires, issued medallions to its players.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had a creative approach to rings in the ’60s. The team won four Stanley Cups in a span of six seasons, but rather than issuing a new ring to every player every year, if a player already had a ring, the club would just supplement the original. First-time championship players, though. did receive a new ring.
After breaking a 54-year title drought in 1994, the New York Rangers re-issued rings to the surviving members of the 1940 title team.
Sometimes teams aren’t so generous. Take the 1965 Canadiens. John Ferguson, who played for the Montreal Canadiens from 1963-71 recalls having to pay for his first championship ring. “I won five Stanley Cup rings, all with the Canadiens,” Ferguson says, “but the first one we had to order ourselves.
“We got a local jeweler to make them. We had to pay for them ourselves. And I remember having to pay $60 for the ring, which doesn’t seem a lot by today’s standards. But you have to remember that we weren’t making that much money back in those days.”
That’s quite a contrast to 1986, when the title-winning Canadiens gave each player a ring festooned with 23 diamonds, each gem representing a Montreal championship.
Some NHLers take a circuitous route to a ring. For instance, Hall of Fame defenseman Harry Howell played 21 seasons in the NHL and never won a Cup. In fact, Howell never even got to a Stanley Cup Finals. But Howell finally received a ring as a scout with the 1990 Edmonton Oilers. Howell wears it proudly. “Winning, the ting as a player would have been the ultimate,” Howell says.
When the Oilers won the Cup in 1989, management decided not only to reward the players, coaches, and front office with tings, but the scouts as well.
“The ring, on the other hand, is something you can always hang onto and see. It’s a constant and beautiful reminder that you were once a member of an NHL Stanley Cup championship team. It’s something every player who has ever won a Stanley Cup ring should feel proud about. I know that I am.”