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Stanley Cup

the trophy awarded to the team that wins the National Hockey League championship

Brief History

On March 18, 1892, at a dinner of the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association, Lord Kilcoursie, a player on the Ottawa Rebels hockey club, delivered the following message on behalf of Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, Lord Stanley of Preston, Governor General of Canada:

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
Lord Stanley

Soon afterwards, Stanley purchased a silver punch bowl measuring 7 inches high by 11 inches across for the sum of 10 guineas (approximately $50) and had the words "Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup" engraved on one side of the outside rim and "From Stanley of Preston" on the other side. He then appointed two Ottawa gentlemen, Sheriff John Sweetland and Philip D. Ross, as trustees and set the following preliminary conditions to govern the annual competition and awarding of the Cup:

The winners shall return the Cup in good order when required by the trustees so that it may be handed over to any other team which may win it.
Each winning team, at its own expense, may have the club name and year engraved on a silver ring fitted on the Cup.
The Cup shall remain a challenge cup, and should not become the property of one team, even if won more than once.
The trustees shall maintain absolute authority in all situations or disputes over the winner of the Cup.
If one of the existing trustees resigns or drops out, the remaining trustee shall nominate a substitute.

the original Stanely Cup
original Stanely Cup

The first winner of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup was the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association hockey club, champions of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada for 1893. Ironically. Lord Stanley never witnessed a championship game nor attended a presentation of his trophy, having returned to his native England during the 1893 season.

In 1915, the two professional ice hockey organizations, the National Hockey Association (NHA) and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA), reached a gentlemen's agreement in which their respective champions would face each other annually for what by then had been renamed the Stanley Cup. After a series of league mergers and folds, the Stanley "Presentation Cup" was established as the de facto championship trophy of the NHL in 1926, and the de jure NHL championship prize in 1947.

The Cup Itself

One of Lord Stanley's original conditions was that each team could, at their own expense, add a ring to the Cup to commemorate their victory. Initially, there was only one base ring, which was attached to the bottom of the original bowl by the Montreal Hockey Club. Clubs engraved their team names, usually in the form "TEAM NAME" "YEAR WON", on that one ring until it was full in 1902. With no more room to engrave their names (and unwilling to pay for a second band), teams left their mark on the bowl itself. The 1907 Montreal Wanderers became the first club to record their name on the bowl's interior surface, and the first champion to record the name of every member of their team. The 1909 Ottawa Senators added a second band onto the Cup in 1909, and that band was filled by the Vancouver Millionaires in 1918.

No further engraving occurred until 1924, when the Montreal Canadiens added a new band to the Cup. Since then, engraving the team and its players has been an unbroken annual tradition. Originally, a new band was added each year, causing the trophy to grow in size. The "Stovepipe Cup", as it was nicknamed because of its resemblance to the exhaust pipe of a stove, became unwieldy, so it was redesigned in 1948 as a two-piece cigar-shaped trophy with a removable bowl and collar. The modern one-piece Cup design was introduced in 1958, when the old barrel was replaced with a five-band barrel, each of which could contain 13 winning teams.

the Stanley Cup prior to redesign
Stanley Cup prior to redesign

The current Stanley Cup, topped with a copy of the original bowl, is made of a silver and nickel alloy, has a height of 35 inches, and weighs 34 pounds. When the bottom band is full, the oldest band is removed and preserved in the Hockey Hall of Fame and a new blank band is added to the bottom. No championship team names from the 1928-29 to the 1953-54 season are currently on the Cup.

the current Stanley Cup
current Stanley Cup

There are technically three versions of the Stanley Cup -- the original 1892 Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, the 1963 authenticated "Presentation Cup", and the 1993 "Replica Cup" at the Hall of Fame.

The original 1892 Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup was physically awarded to the Champions until 1970, and is now displayed in the Vault Room at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario.

The "Presentation Cup" was created in 1963 by Montreal silversmith Carl Petersen because NHL president Clarence Campbell felt that the original bowl was becoming too thin and fragile and requested a duplicate trophy as a replacement. The Presentation Cup is authenticated by the seal of the Hockey Hall of Fame on the bottom, and it is the one currently awarded to the champions of the playoffs.

The "Replica Cup" was created in 1993 by Montreal silversmith Louise St. Jacques to be used as a stand-in at the Hockey Hall of Fame whenever the Presentation Cup is not available for display.

Hocky Hall of Fame
Mental Floss

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This page was last updated on November 01, 2017.