It was a Copenhagener who gave the Cup its iconic shape!
As a teenager, Carl Poul Petersen apprenticed as a silversmith in his hometown of Copenhagen under the renowned tutelage of Georg Jensen. Born in 1895, Carl married in 1922 and seven years later decided to move to Montreal to continue his career.
His first significant job was as a goldsmith at Henry Birks & Sons, a renowned store in Canada to this day. Like millions of people worldwide, however, Petersen had to put his career on hold during the war, but by 1944, he had purchased a home and turned the basement into his studio.
Carl worked with his sons—Arno, Ole, John Paul—to build a reputable business, and soon enough C.P. Petersen & Sons was an important part of Montreal’s creative and aesthetic community. They were known both for crafting fine pieces of jewellery and also for fixing or recreating badly damaged pieces as well.
Petersen’s biggest break came when he was discovered by Saidye Bronfman. Wife of the Seagram’s billionaire baron, Samuel, she commissioned Petersen to create original pieces that she could use at home or give as presents.
Within a few years, Petersen was overseeing a staff of 20 and importing four tons of silver a year. He made everything from cufflinks to silverware, stemware, and decorative objects.
And this is how Petersen started his connection with the Stanley Cup. The NHL, whose only offices at the time were in Montreal, hired him to repair the Cup, and then in 1948 a much more daunting project came his way.
As everyone knows, the winners of the Cup get their names engraved on the trophy. But in the early years, the base of the Cup under the original bowl was simply extended by a ring the same size, year after year. Every year a new team, a new collection of names, a new ring.
By the late 1940s, however, it was a long and ungainly award, and the league realized that it couldn’t keep adding one ring a year for very much longer. Indeed, it was nicknamed the “stovepipe Cup” because of its length, and, in truth, by this time it was ugly. The beautiful original bowl at the top was obscured by this long “pipe.”
The league asked Petersen to re-imagine the trophy, keeping the concept of engraved names of winners but in a way that was more practical for a longer period of time.
Petersen kept the original bowl at the top and then created seven much wider rings down below. Thus was born the current design! But even still that first attempt re-used many parts of the stovepipe Cup and looked a little like Frankenstein—bits and pieces from everywhere, nailed and srcewed together. The shape was great but the final product was a bit rough.
So, in 1957, the league again asked Petersen to re-create the Cup, keeping his first design but starting with fresh silver to create a uniform whole among those seven rings. The Cup that Petersen created in 1957 is what is still used today and is what one team will hoist in a few weeks in North America.
Carl, and later Arno, engraved the Cup-winning names every summer even as the rest of the business took a downturn. Carl died in 1977, and at that point the engraving duties were handed off to Doug Boffey, son of Eric Boffey who was the first person to do the job (Carl was the second). Doug performed the task for several years and then handed the duties off to one of his employees, Louise St. Jacques, who has been doing it ever since.
Two final words on Petersen and the Cup. First, everyone says that players’ names are “engraved” on the Cup. This is technically incorrect. They are “stamped” on the Cup. Each letter is applied individually, the letter at the end of what looks like a screwdriver and punched into the silver by a small hammer.
And second, everyone says there has never been a Danish name on the Stanley Cup. WRONG! At the bottom of the Cup, on the black base, is the name Carl Poul Petersen.