History

The History Nerds guide to the Stanley Cup

Named after its creator, Lord Stanley of Preston, Governor General of Canada. (Photo source: NovaCaps.com)

We all know that the Stanley Cup is probably the most prestigious in all of professional sports – save perhaps the World Cup, but to each their own… But new fans may not know the history of the cup that all hockey fans long to see their team win. In this series, I’m going to give a run down on the history of the best silverware on offer.

The Stanley Cup first came into existance in 1892, created in Sheffield, England and was sold by London silversmith G. R. Collis and Company for £38.55, equivalent in today’s money to around £828.38 and all in all, it’s believed the cup itself is worth around £489,495.

It’s original name was the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, awarded by Lord Stanley to the winner of a challenge posed by the amateur hockey clubs in Canada, where he was the Governor General. The whole idea for the cup came during a dinner, given by the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association, where on behalf of Lord Stanley one of the players of the Ottawa Rebels gave this speech:

“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.”

Source: NHL.com

From the off, Lord Stanley put stipulations in place and many of these are still in use today. They are as follows:

  1. 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.
  2. Each winning team, at its own expense, may have the club name and year engraved on a silver ring fitted on the Cup.
  3. The Cup shall remain a challenge cup, and should not become the property of one team, even if won more than once.
  4. The trustees shall maintain absolute authority in all situations or disputes over the winner of the Cup.
  5. If one of the existing trustees resigns or drops out, the remaining trustee shall nominate a substitute.

Unfortunately, Lord Stanley himself would never see a presentation of his cup, as he returned to England in the middle of 1893. Nonetheless, his trophy and ideas are the foundations on which the National Hockey League still reside to this very day.

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The Dominian Challenge Cup AKA The Original Stanley Cup. Held in a locked vault at the HHOF in Toronto. (Photo: HHOF.com)

Initially the cup was only allowed to be played for by amateur players, as was Lord Stanley’s original mandate. However by 1906, the prestige of winning the Dominan Challenge Cup became so great that some teams were pushing to recruit better players. The cup was won by the Kenora Thistles from the tiny municipality of Kenora, Ontario in 1907, aided by future hall of famers Art Ross and Joe Hall.

The following year, a new trophy was created for the amateur league and the Dominion Cup was used solely for professional teams. From then on it became known as the Stanley cup, however the cup itself has undergone many changes over the years. It did not start looking like the cup we know today until 1958, when the 5 ring barrel design was introduced.

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Syl Apps with the ‘Stovepipe Cup’ before it’s redesign.

Starting in 1924, it became an annual tradition for teams to add a ring to the cup in order to engrave the names of the team who had won. However after a number of years the cup had grown to such a size that it wasn’t feasible to continue in this way.

In 1947, the cup was reshaped into the hourglass shape we know today with a 5 ring barrel. Each ring can hold the names of 13 winning teams, given that they use only their alloted space. Even today, the tools used by the engraver of the cup date back to that time, in order to provide a consistency in it’s engraving.

When the cup is full, the top ring is removed and a brand new ring is added to the bottom in order to retain the size and shape of the cup. The removed ring is then given to the HHOF where it is retained, flattened and displayed. In the summer of 2018, a new ring will be added to include the names of this past season’s Washington Capitals and the top ring which features the 1954-1964 champions will be removed from the top.

The job of engraving the names of the Capitals will fall to Louise St-Jacques. She has been the engraver of the Cup for the last 25 years. It is her job and hers alone to immortalise the names of the champions onto the Stanley Cup. “My favourite thing about working with the Stanley Cup is being in charge of recording the history made each year on arguably one of the worlds most-revered trophies.” St-Jacques said. “The effort and sacrifice made by each person to enable them to become part of the Stanley Cup is monumental, while I get the opportunity to mark this achievement forever.”

St- Jacques is only the 4th engraver ever to have this job and she’s meticulous and careful in her task – She follows Carl Poul Peterson and his son Arno and Doug Boffey in immortalising the names of the champions. She’s only once spelled the name of a player wrong and was the first of the engravers to carefully correct her mistake and from her forebears there are a number of spelling errors on the cup that can still be seen today. However a couple of them will be coming off the cup with the removal of the top ring in the autumn.

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The erased name of Basil Pocklington can clearly be seen here covered by a row of 16 X’s. (Source: HHOF.com)

Prior to St-Jacques taking over as the engraver of the cup, the owner of the 1984 Edmonton Oilers Peter Pocklington had his father’s name etched into the Cup. As his father was not in any way a member of the Oilers organisation it broke with the rules and the NHL immediately had the name removed

with a series of X’s through the name.

This leads me on to explaining how, there are currently 3 Stanley Cups in existence.

The Original Stanley Cup

This Cup was taken out of use in the 1960’s due to wear and tear and to protect it from any further deterioration. It is stored securely in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and is no longer on display. However, since 2018 sees Lord Stanley’s cup celebrating its 125th birthday, the Hall of Fame are offering tours and the chance to see the original in all it’s glory in the vault room.

The Presentation Cup

In 1963, at the request of the then chairman of the NHL, Clarence Campbell, a new Stanley Cup was made by siversmith Carl Peterson to replace the original which had begun to deteriorate. Athough it’s creation was kept a secret for three years. It can be identified by the seal of authenticity from the Hockey Hall of Fame on the bottom of the cup, which can be seen when the players raise it above their heads.

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In this image you can clearly see the seal of authenticity on the bottom of the Stanley Cup as Captain Alex Ovechkin hand the cup over to Nicklas Backstrom. (Source: Reuters/USA Today Sports)

This is the trophy always used by the NHL for presentations and media tours and also the same cup that the winning team get to spend 100 days with over the summer. It is with this cup that you’ll see players drinking champagne from (as is customary now every year) and the one that goes home with each player. When it is not in use it lives in Toronto, where it can be visited by members of the public.

The Replica Cup

A replica was created by Louise St-Jacques in 1993. It is another almost exact replica of the original cup. It is kept at the Hockey Hall of Fame, to make sure that there Cup is always available for fans visiting the attraction to have their photo taken with the trophy regardless of the time of year of their visit. It is a stand-in for when the Presentation Cup is out on tour during the summer months. The creation of the replica Cup took around 5 months and was painstaking and meticulous work.

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The 3 Stanley Cups. L- Presentation Cup. Centre – The Original Stanley Cup. R – The Replica Cup. (source: HockeyGods.com)

The two Cups (the Presentation and Replica) are almost identical. There is however, one small difference, that only getting up close and personal with the Cups will show and that is to do with the 1983-84 Oilers. The Presentation Cup features the removed name of Basil Pocklington, erased with the 16 x’s. The Replica Cup however doesn’t feature the name at all, simply leaving a blank space where the name should have been.

Notable stories of the Stanley Cup

  • The Stanley Cup has visited Afghanistan several times as a moral booster for the American and Canadian troops who were out there on tour. It first visited the warzone in 2007. On May 3rd, it was involved in a rocket attack. However, the Cup was unscathed in the attack.
  • In June 2010, accompanied by Chicago Blackhawks Brent Sopal, the Stanley Cup was part of the Chicago Pride parade.
  • In 1957, Rocket Richard chipped his tooth while drinking from the Cup following the Montreal Canadiens win.
  • Sylvain Lefebvre used his day with the Cup in 1996 to have his young daughter baptised.
  • While on the way to a party the 1924 Montreal Canadiens manage to leave the Cup on the side of the road after having to change a tire.

Damage caused to the Cup over the years

  • The 1905 Stanley Cup Champion Ottawa Senators had quite the celebration in their hometown. Things got so rowdy that one player decided to drop kick the trophy into the canal. Of course, he neglected the fact that the canal was frozen.
  • While celebrating paying off the mortgage on Madison Square Garden, the 1940-41 New York Rangers team lit their contract on fire, while it was in the cup. This caused the Cup itself to catch fire and caused considerable damage to it, which the league made them pay for.
  • During a celebratory bonfire, the 1962 Toronto Maple Leafs accidentally threw the cup into the fire. Somehow, someone had confused it with firewood?

Nothing can compare to the hype and celebration, the elation and pure joy that the Stanley Cup brings to the men and women who win it. While there is no concrete price played on the Stanley Cup, fans and players alike would say it is priceless. There is no other trophy in the world that stands up to the Stanley Cup – at least not in the minds of hearts of those who love hockey.

This year the original trophy is 125 years old. I for one say thank you to Lord Stanley for giving every single person associated in any way with hockey an emblem and a trophy for which we can be proud. Long live the Stanley Cup, happy birthday and here’s to another 125 years of history and joy.

Categories: History

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