On an icy night in 1905, a player of the championship hockey team of Ottawa drop-kicked the Stanley Cup into the Rideau Canal while celebrating. The cup clanked onto the canal's icy surface and skidded off into the night, only to be recovered the next morning. It was once officially named the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, but later became known as the Stanley Cup. Today, it goes by many names: The Cup, Lord Stanley’s Cup, Lord Stanley’s Mug, and last but not least, “Lord Stanley.”
In the world of sports, there isn't a single trophy that can hold a candle to the myth and the lore of the Stanley Cup. It is an institution; a religion for all hockey enthusiasts, and considered interchangeable with the Holy Grail itself. It has grown from its humble origins and stature, to the 34 pound tower that we see champions hoist over their heads today. Hockey players both young and old seem to have a common story from their childhood. It doesn't make a difference where the hockey games of their youth took place, be it on a frozen pond or on a hot concrete slab, they all played out the fantasy of winning the Cup.
The Stanley Cup has filled more roles than just a trophy, mind you. It has been a fishing buddy, a mountain climber, a late night partier, a champagne flute, a toilet, and an ambassador. Its tender 123 years hasn't stopped it from rivaling the helter-skelter lives of even the most infamous of its bearers.
In 1892, British sports enthusiast, and Governor General, Lord Stanley of Preston was goaded by his two sons (both hockey players) to donate a trophy that would serve as the national championship trophy of Canada. Lord Stanley purchased a silver bowl affixed to a pedestal for $48.67, which would be $1,170 today, give or take.
The Cup's popularity soon took hold, capturing the imaginations of players and teams from all over the vast expanse of Canada. Any hockey club could apply for a chance to win the Cup, which only further gave rise to its popularity. Teams would travel thousands of miles, by rail, dog sled and as well as on foot, for a chance to win the Cup. In 1914 it was declared by Cup trustees that the Stanley Cup was no longer just for the best team in Canada, but for the best team in the world. In 1917, the Seattle Metropolitans became the first team from the United States to win the Stanley Cup. The NHL was formed the next year.
The Stanley Cup soon became the championship trophy of the NHL, with teams from all over the North American continent, battling it out for a chance to hoist Lord Stanley above their heads in front of screaming fans.
Since then, it has taken on many different shapes and sizes over the decades. The original trophy was retired in the late 60's and a new, but similar trophy was made with incorporating bands of silver. Each band represented a championship team. As the years went on, the Cup grew to an unwieldy height and weight. The Cup's once "stove pipe" appearance, later gave way to a more robust size, making it to where 13 teams could be engraved on single band instead of just one. When all bands are filled, the oldest is taken off and preserved in the Hockey Hall of Fame and a new blank band is added.
The Stanley Cup’s tradition is more than just about victory and loss. After the championship team makes their celebratory lap around the rink, Lord Stanley’s Cup goes on an epic journey that takes the whole summer to complete, visiting presidents, prime ministers and hospitals, not only in the North American continent, but all around the world. In the off-season, each player of the championship team gets possession of the Cup for 24 hours. What ensues after a player receives the Cup, invokes amazement, laughter, shock, and sometimes, disgust.
In 1924 members of the Montreal Canadiens were on their way to a party after their win. The car carrying both the cup and the players got a flat tire and was forced to pull over for repairs. They ended up leaving the Cup on the side of the road by accident. When it was time to drink champagne from the Cup, they realized it was missing. Luckily, they found it right where they had left it. In 1940 the New York Rangers urinated on it to put out the fire that had been set on the Cup. Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens took the Cup swimming in a pool on separate occasions. In 1994, Ed Olczyk took the Cup to the Kentucky Derby winner, Go for Gin, to be used as a feed bag. A Colorado Avalanche player had his daughter baptized in it, while Detroit Red Wings’ Kris Draper’s daughter took a dump in it, whether it was on purpose or not, is unknown. What is known, is that Draper later drank from it later that night.
Whether it is on the road charming fans, meeting with heads of countries or being used both as a chalice and a toilet, the Stanley Cup truly lives a life of its own. It is a prize of legend. In other ways, it is like that friend who is down for “whatever.” Wanna meet the president? Sure. Wanna go mountain climbing? Yep. Wanna get thrown off the second story into a pool? Bring it on! Not matter what is thrown at it, it takes both its reputation and each new experience in stride. Cheers!