The Stanley Cup has been around since the 1800s, starting its life being bought by Lord Stanley of Preston for 10 Guineas, around $50 (Hockey Hall of Fame). The Cup is the oldest trophy in North America (that is competed for by professional athletes). It was donated in 1892 and the first team to receive the trophy was the Montreal Amateur Athletic Club. Since 1910 the trophy has belonged to the National Hockey League, and it has been awarded to only NHL teams since 1926.
The Stanley Cup has changed multiple times over the years, starting life as simply the bowl on top of the trophy – which has since been replaced – and was known as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. At first, it was awarded to only the best team in Canada. When the NHL gained ownership, the trophy found its way to America multiple times, including the first American team to win it, the 1917-18 Seattle Metropolitans. It has also had numerous iterations, including adding bands inscribed with every player, coach, and owner’s name of the team that won it a certain year.
Now there are three cups – the original Dominion Cup, permanently on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame, was awarded until 1970, but then-commissioner Clarence Campbell (who also has a trophy named after him) believed it grew too brittle to award in 1963 (Hockey Writers). The two most famous in today’s day and age, which are awarded every year, lifted, and made out with, are the Presentation Trophy, which is also the trophy that travels with a constant companion, keeper of the Cup Phil Pritchard, and the Replica Cup, which is an exact copy of the Presentation Trophy and remains in the Hall when the Presentation Trophy is away.
But the symbolism of the trophy remains despite the three copies. When the trophy has been passed down through generations, inscribed with every team who has won it, and which awaits every team once they’ve beaten 4 teams in the playoffs a total of 16 times, it’s hard not to have a history. It’s the only trophy that isn’t remade, but which is simply added too. The bands that have preceded the ones currently on the cup are now in the Hall of Fame, each carrying the original names of all winners.
The trophy belongs to the players, and not the owner. Every player gets a day with a cup, which they can use to whatever end they choose. Again, this is the only trophy in sports that does that. It’s flown all over the world, including to Sweden, Slovakia, and Russia to achieve this purpose. Since 2003, the Hall has kept a journal of all the Cup’s travels.
And it’s not just the players, coaches, and front office members who surround this trophy with history. It’s fans worship it as well, and it has gone to extreme lengths to meet fans. This includes flying into an active war zone, camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to boost morale for Canadian and American troops serving in the Middle East (Mental Floss). It would not have the same effect if the Lombardi trophy for that year or the World Series trophy did the same, because it doesn’t bear the same sentimentality, the same symbolize, the same height of history.
When Lord Stanley donated the Cup, he mandated that two trustees must always be in charge of the Cup, and those two for the Hall of Fame right now are Brian O’Neill and Ian Morrison, who are in charge of all things Cup.
The Cup has not always had careful supervisors, as during the playoffs of 1962, Montreal fan Ken Kilander attempted to steal the Cup from where it was resting in Chicago. Chicago had won the trophy the year before, but Kilander wanted to return the Cup to where it belonged – Montreal (the Hockey Writers). Though to be fair to Kilander, it does seem to find its way more to Montreal – they have won a record 23 times, but not since 1993. The second-winningest team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, have won the Cup 13 times, but not since 1967. In fact, it has been 20 years since any Canadian team has won the Cup. But it has been 0 years since a team with mostly Canadian players won the Cup.
Two teams have the distinct honor of being inscribed within the bowl of the original Cup itself – the 1906-07 Montreal Wanderers and the 1914-1915 Vancouver Millionaires (Hockey Hall of Fame).
The cup means so much to so many people, and it’s earned its history throughout this period. The players, coaches, owners, and fans all have a deep respect for the Cup, and it has come to symbolize the game itself. If you love hockey, you love that Cup. No trophy in North American sports has the same value in terms of emotions and memories as the Stanley Cup, and it’s the best trophy in American sports for a reason.
Bridge, Casey. “Little Known Facts About the Stanley Cup.” The Hockey Writers. N.p., 16 June 2015. Web. 01 Oct. 2016. <http://thehockeywriters.com/little-known-facts-about-the-stanley-cup/>.
Hutchinson, Sean. “22 Things About the Stanley Cup.” Mental Floss. N.p., 12 June 2016. Web. 1 Oct. 2016. <http://mentalfloss.com/article/51140/22-things-you-might-not-know-about-stanley-cup>.
“Legends of Hockey – NHL Trophies – Stanley Cup.” Legends of Hockey. Hockey Hall of Fame, n.d. Web. 01 Oct. 2016. <http://www.hhof.com/htmlSilverware/silver_splashstanleycup.shtml>.
“NHL Trophies – Stanley Cup – Engraving Facts, Firsts & Faux Pas.” Legends of Hockey. Hockey Hall of Fame, n.d. Web. 01 Oct. 2016. <http://www.hhof.com/htmlSilverware/silver_stFFFs.shtml>.