There are plenty of trophies in professional sports but none provoke as much emotion as the Stanley Cup.
The 120-year old, 35-pound silver and nickel prize has a history that is older than the National Hockey League itself; but what makes the Stanley Cup so special?
To answer that question we must first take a look back at how the Stanley Cup came to be.
It all began in 1892, when a decorative punch bowl was purchased by Lord Stanley of Preston – the Governor General of Canada from 1888 to 1893 – for the price of $48.67. Lord Stanley had come to enjoy the sport of hockey after his two sons formed a team and later Stanley used the punch bowl as an award for a challenge cup in which the best teams in Canada could compete for on a yearly basis.
That punch bowl – which NHL teams have competed for since 1926 – has grown in size over the years and that’s because you don’t just win the Stanley Cup, but rather become part of it.
Unlike other trophies, winning teams get the names of their players, coaches and staff members engraved into its base. In order for a player to be eligible, he has to appear in 41 regular season game or play in one game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Cup started out with just one ring at its base but more were soon added to account for all the names, until 1958 when the Cup began several altercations to give it the look it has today. The trophy cannot continue to grow in size, so in 1991 the NHL removed the top band of the largest rings and it was preserved in the Hockey Hall of Fame. A blank band was then added.
To count every name on the Stanley Cup would take days, perhaps months but there are a few names that aren’t hard to find! The Montreal Canadiens’ Jean Beliveau appears on the Cup 17 times – 10 as a player and seven more as part of Canadiens’ management. Maurice Richard – a teammate of Beliveau during his days in Montreal – has his name on the Cup 11 times, more than any other player in history. As a team, the Canadiens have been etched onto the Stanley Cup 24 times.
But with all those names there were bound to be a few spelling mistakes. Several teams have had incorrect spellings – Toronto Maple Leafs was spelled “Leaes” in 1963, Boston Bruins was spelled “Bqstqn” in 1972 and in 1981 the New York Islanders was spelled “Ilanders.” Players have also fallen victim to misspellings, with nearly a dozen still on the Cup today. Corrections were never made to the misspellings, that is until Adam Deadmarsh’s last name – which was misspelled “Deadmarch” – was fixed shortly after the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 1996.
But the winning team doesn’t just win the Cup; each member who has had his name engraved into it gets to keep it – for a day. It was a tradition that began in 1994 with the New York Rangers and has spurred some wild stories and urban legends.
In 1999 it was rumored that Guy Carbonneau threw the Stanley Cup off the deck of a house some of the Dallas Stars and the band Pantera were partying at, in the hopes of it landing in a nearby pool. It missed the pool and suffered major damage, though the story has never been proven. But the most famous story involving the Cup came in 1996 when Avalanche defenseman Sylvian Lefebvre had his daughter baptized in the trophy.
It has reportedly been to every corner of the planet, defecated in, urinated on, shared a bed, attended strip clubs and been used as a kitchen utensil.
The NHL’s slogan during the 2012 playoffs has been “Because it’s the Cup” and it’s no wonder why considering that players and coaches will do anything for it. That is why the Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in all of sports, and with one more win, the Kings and their fans in the city of angels will soon learn firsthand.
Photo Credit: AP