CHICAGO -- There are just 12 women's names on the Stanley Cup.
But a woman was responsible for putting all but one of them there -- as well as the approximately 1,000 men's names added to the Cup in the 24 years since Louise St. Jacques has been the trophy's artisan scribe.
Beginning in mid-September at her Montreal studio, after the trophy has finished traveling to wherever each player on the 2013 Blackhawks wants to take it, St. Jacques will begin recording the latest NHL champions on the lowest of the trophy's five barrel rings.
St. Jacques, 54, who took over the job from her father-in-law when he retired, uses the same tools as her three official predecessors as Cup engraver. That allows names added in 2013 to have the same, slightly homespun artistry of those from decades ago, no matter that the execution requires the refined skill of a professional engraver -- and being a Scrabble whiz also could be useful.
After all, St. Jacques needs to figure how to get several hundred letters arranged sensibly in a pre-defined space. The names vary considerably in length, such as Niklas Hjalmarsson and Ray Emery, and the lines of names also are of varying length.
"The setup time varies, sometimes enormously," St. Jacques said in an email. "I usually take five days to plan and execute the stamping."
That's right: stamping, not engraving. Once the barrel ring is removed from the Cup's foundation, St. Jacques takes a hammer and a metal shank with a raised letter at the end -- moveable type of a sort -- and punches the names into the silver surface one capital letter at a time.
There is no tracing paper with the names written on it laid over the area to be stamped. She does it essentially freehand, using only a guideline and her sharp eyes to keep the lines as straight as possible.
Depending on where the Cup winds up, it either will be delivered or shipped to St. Jacques, a native of Montreal and partner in metal engravers Boffey Promotions. The NHL allocates 10 days to do the stamping. The winning team then gets to show it off at home again before its subsequent season opener.
The Blackhawks will submit a list of up to 52 names -- players, staff, ownership -- to the NHL for approval. Only after the names are on the Cup will they be made public.
There are some unwritten rules about which players are included. One is you must play half the games in the regular season or at least one game in the Cup final.
For backup goalies like Emery, the criterion is different. Being listed on the scoresheet as an eligible player for that game counts for Cup inscription purposes as having been in the game.
There are 23 Hawks players' names listed alphabetically on the Cup for the 2009-10 season. The other 29 names are management, staff and coaches, listed in pooh-bah order and beginning with chairman W. ROCKWELL WIRTZ.
The players start with JONATHAN TOEWS CAPT. but oddly come after everyone else. It's almost as if someone decided to adopt former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause's mantra that organizations, not players, win championships. Thus the women, eight of whom were part of ownership groups.
The 2013 Hawks will join the 2010 champions on the same ring, which includes a blank space where the 2004-05 lockout season is noted and has room for four more champions after 2013. The ring with the 1961 Hawks remains on the Cup, but the rings with their two championship predecessors -- 1934 and 1938 -- have been removed to lie in state at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
The list of the 1938 Hawks includes one of the Cup's several unchanged errors: Pete Palangio's name appears twice, once spelled correctly, one without the "n."
Two of the errors have occurred during St. Jacques' engraving tenure, much to her chagrin because she double-checks all spellings. One involved the Avalanche's Adam Deadmarsh in 1996, the other the Red Wings' Manny Legace in 2002.
"The Stanley Cup is a very high-profile trophy, and nerves play into any work done on this ultimate sports achievement," she wrote. "No one is pleased with a mistake, whether it is personal or instructed (getting an incorrect spelling on the list from the league)."
She corrected both the Deadmarsh (originally Deadmarch) and Legace (originally Lagace) spellings -- the first such errors to be fixed. In the case of Legace, the replacement "E" is very obvious.
"Should any mistake occur, the culprit letters are punched back flat, polished, then re-stamped appropriately," St. Jacques wrote.
Only four years into her tenure, St. Jacques had the chance to add names from the team she grew up cheering, the Canadiens -- who ironically have not been in the finals since.
"I am very fortunate and proud to do the work for any NHL winning team," she wrote, putting a diplomatic stamp on her pride.
-- Chicago Tribune