The Stanley Cup

Backgrounder

The Stanley Cup is the oldest and most prestigious trophy in North American team sports. Initially known as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, Governor General of Canada Lord Stanley of Preston donated it in 1892 for the best Canadian hockey team. It has been awarded almost every year, and, as of 1927, it has been the exclusive prize of the National Hockey League’s playoff champion. Originally a silver cup, it has changed shape over the years, with the names of the players, coaches, and managers of every winning team since 1930 engraved on its base. This coveted silver trophy has captured the imagination of hockey players and fans for more than 120 years.

The Stanley Cup began as a prize for the winning amateur hockey team at the Dominion of Canada championship. However, because of the public’s growing interest in hockey, amateur teams began to attract an increasing number of professional players. In time, amateur clubs were completely excluded from the competition, and the Cup became the symbol of professional hockey supremacy. In 1917, the National Hockey League (NHL) was established; it was one of several professional leagues in the country whose teams battled for the Stanley Cup in the much anticipated spring playoffs at the conclusion of the hockey season. By 1927, the other leagues had disbanded and the NHL gained exclusive control of the Cup. Since it came into existence, the Stanley Cup has been awarded every year with the exception of the 1918–1919 season because of the Spanish flu epidemic and the 2004–2005 season when the players’ lock-out led to the cancellation of the entire hockey season and playoffs. This highly coveted, prestigious trophy has created rivalries and led to many exciting matches.

The Stanley Cup has changed in shape and size over the years. It started out as a simple silver cup, resembling a soup bowl that measured 18.5 cm in height and 30 cm in diameter and worth 10 pounds sterling, and has changed gradually over the years. Its present appearance dates to 1958. It is made of a silver and nickel alloy, stands 88 cm high, weighs nearly 14.6 kg, and is still topped with a copy of the original bowl. The original Stanley Cup bowl is on permanent display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario.

There have been many stories and anecdotes throughout the Stanley Cup’s history: it has been lost, stolen, and accidentally misplaced. Of great symbolic value, the Cup celebrates the NHL’s greatest teams, players, and rivalries. Today, the Stanley Cup is worth an estimated $75,000. But the true value of this more than century-old trophy comes from the sense of pride and belonging it has given the players and their many fans.

 

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