Stanley Cup

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The Stanley Cup is inscribed with the names of all the players on the teams that have won it. When they run out of space, a new "section" is added to the trophy

The Stanley Cup, originally titled the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, is awarded each year by the National Hockey League to the champion of its playoff tournament.



The Stanley Cup, originally a decorative bowl purchased from a London silversmith worth 10 guineas ($48.67 USD), was originally donated in 1892 by Lord Stanley, Governor General of Canada, who had become enamoured with ice hockey. It was originally used as the trophy given out to the top amateur hockey team in Canada, decided by the acceptance of a challenge from another team by the Cup holders and trustees.

Lord Stanley had made several preliminary regulations regarding the Cup:

  • The Cup also acted as the league championship of the league that the champion belonged in.
  • The Cup was not the property of any given team at any given time.
  • The Cup trustees have the final say on disputes should there be any on who the Cup holder should be.
  • Challengers for the Cup must have won their league championship.
  • The challenge games (where the Cup could change leagues) were to be decided either in one game affair, a two-game total goals affair, or a best of three series, to the benefit of both teams involved. All matches would take place on the home ice of the champions, although specific dates and times would have to be approved by the trustees.
  • Ticket receipts from the challenge games were to be split equally between both teams.
  • A league may not challenge for the Cup twice in one season.
  • The Cup champions have the responsibility to return the Cup in good condition when required by the trustees.
  • The Cup champions could add a silver ring to the Cup to commemorate their Cup victory.

The Cup was originally presented in 1893 to the Montreal AAA, the champion of the Amateur Hockey Association, the top hockey league of Canada at the time.

Early years

The first Stanley Cup playoff game occurred in March 17, 1894, and the first game where the Cup was on the line occurred on March 22 the same year. The year saw four teams out of the five-team AHA tied for the championship with records of 5-3-0. This created problems for the AHA governors and the league trustees as to which team was champion, as there were no tiebreaking system in place. After long negotiation and the withdrawal of Quebec from the championship situation, it was decided that a three-team tournament would take place in Montreal, with the Ottawa team getting a bye to the finals (being the sole "road" team). The first Stanley Cup Final game saw the Montreal AAA successfully defending their title with a 3-1 win.

The next year saw the first challenge for the cup, by Queen's University. However, this did not come without controversy. On March 8, 1895, the Montreal Victorias won the league title, and thus the Stanley Cup, but the challenge match, which was scheduled earlier for the next day, was to be between the previous year's champion and the university squad. Thus, it was decided by the trustees that the Montreal AAA, if they won the challenge match, would mean that the Victorias would become the Stanley Cup champions. The AAA would eventually win the match 5-1, while their cross-town rivals were crowned the champions.

The first successful challenge was made the next year by the Winnipeg Victorias, the champions of the Manitoba Hockey League. On February 14, 1896, the Winnipeg squad defeated the champions 2-0, becoming the first team from outside of the AHA to win the Cup. Their cup reign was brief, though: the Montreal Victorias, upon winning the AHA championship, demanded a rematch for the Cup. In what was said to be the most anticipated hockey game of the time, the Montreal Victorias defeated the Winnipeg Victorias 6-5 on December 30, 1896.

The first best-of-three challenge was originally scheduled in 1897 between the AHA champion Montreal Victorias against the Central Canada Hockey Association champion Ottawa Capitals. However, the series was ended after the first game, after the Victorias clearly had the upper hand in a 14-2 victory. It would be until 1899 that the first true best-of-three challenge series was played (although the Winnipeg Victorias forfeited the second game - and the championship - after a controversial referee call), and 1900 that the first best-of-three challenge went the distance.

1899 also saw the Cup being defended by two different teams in the same year, as the Montreal Victorias and new league champions Montreal Shamrocks defended the Cup against the Winnipeg Victorias and Queen's University, respectively.

The challenge series of January 1902 saw the first series where the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (formerly the AHA) was not involved.

The 1903 challenge series was the first to have a game replayed. On January 31, the clock struck midnight as the second game of the series remained tied 2-2 following 27 minutes of overtime between the Winnipeg Victorias and Montreal AAA. Because of the Sabbath, the game was replayed on February 2, with Winnipeg winning 4-2 to even the series. A month later, the AAA would finish third in the CAHL standings with the top two teams tied in the standings, and thus the Stanley Cup champions was determined from a two-game totals affair between the Montreal Victorias and the Ottawa Silver Seven. The Silver Seven, upon winning the title, were then forced to defend their championship two days later in a challenge series against the Rat Portage Thistles, a series that the Ottawa easily won.

On January 30, 1904, a league game between the Silver Seven and the Montreal Victorias started late and both teams agreed to end the game at midnight, with the Silver Seven leading 4-1. The CAHL ordered instead the game to be replayed instead of aborted, and the ensuing debate caused the Silver Seven withdrawing from the CAHL. The CAHL hoped that, now without Ottawa, the Cup would remain with the CAHL and become the property of its Quebec team, while the Cup trustees thought otherwise. For a while, the Silver Seven were not affiliated with any league, but in 1905, they would join the rival Federal Amateur Hockey League. That year saw the Dawson City Nuggets in one of the more legendary Stanley Cup challenge series - partly because of the 4000-mile journey from the Yukon to the Nation's Capital, and partly because how the Nuggets, tired from the long trip and arriving in Ottawa only a day before the game, were outplayed in the series. The second game of this series set many Stanley Cup records that were unmatched to this date, when Frank McGee scored 14 goals in a 23-2 rout, the largest margin of victory for any challenge game or Stanley Cup Final game to date.

1906 saw the creation of the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association and, in December of that year, the first professional players to play for (and win) the Stanley Cup. Until 1910, when Cup trustees declared that only players who played in their league's regular season were eligible to play for the Cup, it was commonplace for both champion and challenger in the challenge series to bring in professional ringers to play the challenge games. 1908 saw the first all-professional team, the Toronto Trolley Leaguers, compete for the Stanley Cup. By then, the Allan Cup replaced the Stanley Cup as the trophy for Canada's amateurs, and the Stanley Cup became a symbol of professional hockey supremacy.

The 1909 saw the departure of the Montreal AAA and the Montreal Victorias, the two remaining amateur teams, from the ECAHA, and thus the ECAHA dropped the "Amateur" from their name, becoming an all-pro league. The following year saw the Canadian Hockey Association (formerly the ECHA) kicking out the Montreal Wanderers as well as the Ottawa Senators (formerly the Silver Seven) leaving the CHA in mid-season after a challenge series for the newly-formed National Hockey Association. With two strong teams in the NHA, the NHA soon proved to be unquestionably the top league in Canada.

Prior to 1912, challenges could take place at any time, given the appropriate rink conditions, and it was common for teams to defend the Cup numerous times in the year. In 1912, Cup trustees declared that the Cup was only to be defended at the end of the champion team's regular season.

The new challenge

In 1914, the Victoria Aristocrats from the Pacific Coast Hockey Association informally "challenged" the Cup champion Toronto Blueshirts to a series of exhibition series. This would set up an agreement between the NHA and the PCHA a year later where their respective champions would face each other for the Cup, an agreement that, by large, lasted until 1926. The Stanley Cup Final series would alternate between the east and the west each year, while the differing rulesets of the NHA and PCHA would alternate each game. The Vancouver Millionaires would win the first "formal" final, three games to zero in a best-of-five series.

1916 saw the first American team, the Portland Rosebuds, in either league, as well as the first American team in the Stanley Cup Final. The following year saw the first American team (the Seattle Metropolitans) to host (and win) the Cup. 1918 saw the dissolution of the NHA and the formation of the National Hockey League in its place. The Stanley Cup finals format remained largely unchanged until 1922, with the creation of the Western Canada Hockey League, where two of the league champions would face each other for the right to face the third champion. In 1924, because of a dispute on whether to send one or both of the western champions east, the PCHL's Vancouver Maroons and the WCHA's Calgary Tigers played in a series on the way east to determine who would get the free pass to the Finals and who would face the Montreal Maroons in the semifinal bout.

1925 saw the merger of the PCHA and the WCHL to form the Western Hockey League, and its demise a year later meant that the NHL got exclusive control of the Stanley Cup.

The Cup today

The Cup has been awarded every year since 1893, except for 1919 (when it was not awarded because of an outbreak of Spanish influenza) and 2005 (as a result of a labour dispute). The Montreal Canadiens have won the most Stanley Cups, 24. The Toronto Maple Leafs come in second with 13 Cup wins. The highest-ranking American team is the Detroit Red Wings with 10 wins.

A group of hockey fans from Edmonton announced in December 2004 plans to ask the trophy's trustees to make the Stanley Cup a challenge trophy once again due to the 2004-05 NHL lockout. If their plan works, it would involve the winner of the Memorial Cup, Allan Cup, University Cup, as well as the top Canadian semi-professional team (AHL and ECHL). [1] (

There are actually two Stanley Cups; the original, which is presented to the winning team, and a duplicate which is displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame and is also used for promotions. It currently stands at 880 mm (35 1/4 inches) tall and weighs almost 14.6 kilograms (32 lb). To have one's name inscribed on the Stanley Cup, a player must have played at least 41 games for the team during the regular season (provided the player remains with the team when they win the Cup) or a game of the Finals, although the NHL will also permit other reasons on a case-by-case basis.

It is interesting to note that the player who has served on the most Stanley Cup championship teams is Henri "Pocket Rocket" Richard, of the Montreal Canadians, holder of 11 Stanley Cup Rings. Two other Habs have 10 rings: the great Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer.

Engraving on the Cup

A unique feature of the Stanley Cup is the fact that, with few exceptions in the past, the Stanley Cup is the only trophy in professional sports that has the name of every member of the winning team engraved upon it. This has not always been the case - one of Lord Stanley's original conditions said that each team could, at their own expense, add a ring on the Cup to commemorate their Cup victory (the first year being an exception). Initially, there was only one ring, the one added by the Montreal AAA. Teams would engrave their names on that one ring until it was full in 1902, and with no room to engrave their names (perhaps unwilling to pay for a second band to the Cup), teams left their mark on the bowl itself, starting with the 1903 Montreal AAA and continuing to 1908. In particular, the 1907 Montreal Wanderers recorded their names inside the bowl's interior.

In 1908, for reasons unknown, the Wanderers, despite having turned aside four challengers, did not record their names on the Cup. The next year saw the Ottawa Senators add a new band onto the Cup. Despite the new room on the Cup, the 1910 Wanderers and the 1911 Senators, for reasons unknown, did not put their names on the Cup. The new band would eventually be filled by the Vancouver Millionaires, who, although they did not properly win the Cup (which by then was a formal championship game akin to the World Series), they did win the league championship of the previous champion's league. It has also been noted that two other teams were on the Cup due to the "league championship" clause from 1915 to 1918, although they did not officially win the Cup.

It was a mystery why no further engraving occurred until 1924, when the Canadiens added a new band on the Cup. However, since then, the engraving of the team and its players have been an annual tradition that has not been broken. In particular, a new band was added each year until the Cup was redesigned in 1948, causing the Cup to balloon in size from 16 inches (400 mm) tall in 1909 to almost three feet (900 mm) in height in 1940. The Cup was redesigned in 1948 as a two-piece cigar-shaped trophy with a removable bowl and collar. This Cup also properly honored those teams that did not engrave their names on the Cup themselves.

The modern one-piece Cup design was introduced in 1958 with the replacement of the old barrel with a five-band barrel (each of which could contain 13 winning teams). Although the bands were originally designed to fill up during the Cup's centennial year, the names of the 1965 Montreal Canadiens were engraved over a larger area than allotted (and thus there are 12 teams on that band instead of 13). The bands were finally filled up in 1991 when a decision was made to preserve the top band of the large barrel in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario and introduce a new blank band at the bottom so that the size of the Stanley Cup would not grow further. In 2004, a second band replacement was needed. It is also to be noted that since 1958, the Cup underwent several minor alterations, namely the retirement of the collar in 1963 and the bowl in 1969 in favor of duplicate ones due to the originals being too brittle.

Traditions and anecdotes

The Stanley Cup trophy itself is colloquially known as "Lord Stanley's Mug" or simply as "The Silver Cup" and tradition dictates that the winning team drink champagne from the top bowl after their victory. Another tradition dictates that immediately following the series-winning victory the captain of the winning team receives the Cup, and then is the first to hoist it overhead; the cup is then passed from player to player and hoisted by each member of the team as they skate round the rink, a tradition known as "skating the cup". This second tradition was slightly breached in 2001 by Joe Sakic and Ray Bourque when the Avalanche won the Cup. The seventh game of the 2001 Finals was the last of Bourque's 22 year NHL career, and he had never been on a Cup-winning team until then. After Avs captain Sakic received the Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, he did not hoist it, but instead handed it to Bourque for him to hoist.

Another tradition (or rather superstition) that is prevalent among today's NHL players is that no player should touch the cup itself until his team has rightfully won the cup. Adding to this superstition is some players' choice to neither touch nor hoist the conference trophies (Clarence S. Campbell Bowl and Prince of Wales Trophy) when these series have been won; the players feel that the Stanley Cup is the true championship trophy and thus it should be the only trophy that they should be hoisting.

Although many players have unofficially had a private day with the Cup before, a tradition started in 1995 wherein each member of the Cup-winning team is allowed personal posession of the Cup for a day, the Cup also being accompanied by representatives of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Stanley Cup has been often touted in recent years as the most difficult trophy to win in professional sports, due to the physical nature of hockey and the long process.

Unfortunately, Lord Stanley himself never saw a game where his trophy was on the line, nor did he ever present the Cup bearing his name to the champions, having to return to England in 1893.

The Cup's travels

The Cup has been to many places around the world as one of the most recognizable trophies in professional sports. It has logged more than 400,000 miles (640,000 km) during the past five seasons. Among the places the Cup has travelled:


The Cup has also been mistreated, misplaced, or otherwise misused on numerous occasions:

Errors in engraving

There have also been errors on the engraving on the Cup, some of which also exist on the duplicate Cup found in the Hockey Hall of Fame:

Playoff games of note

1919 flu epidemic: Stanley Cup not awarded

During the 1918-19 Stanley Cup playoffs between the Montreal Canadiens and the Seattle Metropolitans, several Montreal Canadiens players contracted Spanish influenza, part of a worldwide epidemic. The finals were cancelled after five games. The final game was never played, because Montreal players Joe Hall, Manager Kennedy, Billy Coutu, Jack McDonald and Edouard Lalonde were hospitalized with influenza. Joe Hall died four days after the cancelled game, and the series was abandoned, remaining tied at 2-2-1. At that time, it was the only year for which the Stanley Cup was not awarded until the labor stoppage of 2004-2005.

1927 Stanley Cup brawl

In Game 4 of the 1927 Stanley Cup, Boston Bruins defenseman Billy Coutu started a Stanley Cup brawl, apparently at the request of coach Art Ross. Coutu punched referee Jerry LaFlamme. As a result, Billy Coutu was the first player to be suspended from the NHL for life. On October 8, 1929, the suspension was lifted so that Coutu could play in the minor leagues. He never played in the NHL again.

2004-05 lockout

A labor dispute between the NHL's owners and the NHLPA, the union that represents the players, forced a lockout that began on September 15, 2004, leading to the cancellation of the 2004-05 season and Stanley Cup Playoffs. A fan site known as Free Stanley ( was also launched in hopes of having the Cup be given to the best hockey team in Canada; they called for a return to the "challenge cup format" previously used in competing for the Cup. A group in Ontario known as Justice for Stanley ( has also filed an application with the Ontario Superior Court requesting a ruling on the terms of the Stanley Cup trust; they've claimed that the trustees must award the trophy regardless of the NHL lockout. Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson stated early in the dispute that the Cup should be awarded to the top women's hockey team since the lockout canceled the NHL season, but on March 10, 2005, she announced that she would instead create a new trophy for women's hockey. Details of how the competition will be organized and the trophy awarded have not yet been announced.

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