Hockey 101: The Origin of the Stanley Cup

stanley cup nhl (2)

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are currently battling for hockey’s ultimate prize: the Stanley Cup.

The Stanley Cup is more than just a big trophy given to the best team of the NHL every June, there’s a story behind the origin of the coveted Cup.

It’s the ultimate prize in the National Hockey League, we already know that. We refer to “that cup” often. Some fans also refer to it as “Lord Stanley’s Cup” or go as far as calling it “The Holy Grail”. So just where did that name come from? The Stanley Cup, translated in French (Canadian), means: La Coupe Stanley. Americans and NHL fans worldwide know the Stanley Cup as the championship trophy annually awarded to the NHL final round playoff winner. And as Washington Capitals fans, we have been anxiously awaiting this prize for more than 40 years! lord stanleyThe origin of the Stanley Cup dates all the way back to 1892 where it was awarded to the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup and was named for Lord Stanley of Preston who was the Governor General of Canada at the time. It was Lord Stanley who awarded the cup to Canada’s top-ranking amateur ice hockey club. Stanley was introduced to hockey at Montreal’s 1889 Winter Carnival where he watched a hockey game for the very first time. During this time period, hockey was in its infancy in Canada and there were only two hockey leagues: Montreal and Ottawa. The love for the sport quickly grew to Stanley’s entire family: his wife and both his daughters and sons. It was Stanley’s sons; Arthur and Algernon who enticed their father to donate a trophy to be “an outward and visible sign of the hockey championship”. Stanley compiled and sent the following message to the three-time champion Ottawa Hockey Club in 1892: “I have for some time been thinking that it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion (of Canada). There does not appear to be any such outward sign of a championship at present, and considering the general interest which matches now elicit, and the importance of having the game played fairly and under rules generally recognized, I am willing to give a cup which shall be held from year to year by the winning team.” – Lord Stanley of Preston. Professional teams became eligible to win the cup beginning in 1906. In 1915, two professional ice hockey organizations: the National Hockey Association (NHA) and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) reached an agreement in which their respective champions would play one another annually and the winner would receive the coveted “Stanley Cup“. Throughout a number of league mergers and folds, the Stanley Cup was established as the de fact championship trophy of the NHL in 1926 and then the de jure NHL championship prize in 1947. The Stanley Cup is unique in that a new cup is not made and presented to each year’s winner. Instead, the winners keep the trophy until a new champion is crowned. Also unusual is that the cup features all of the winning players, coaches, management and all the club staff engraved on it’s chalice.

In the early years, a new band was added each year, however it didn’t take too many years for the trophy to quickly grow. In 1958, the one-piece cup was developed and it had a five-band barrel that would be able to present 13 winning teams per each of the five bands. In order to prevent the cup from growing, as the bottom band filled to capacity, the oldest band is removed and now displayed at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and a new blank band is substituted in it’s place.

Sometimes during the offseason, you can see the Stanley Cup on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame. You can even touch it and pose for a photo with it. If you’re a hockey fan and you haven’t been to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, I highly recommend it!

And then there are those moments, when you’ve won the Cup and you have “No Words”.

By Michael Marzzacco

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3 Responses to Hockey 101: The Origin of the Stanley Cup

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