Lord Stanley’s Cup

On this day in 1893, a decorative silver punch bowl costing ten guineas began its unaccountable rise to becoming one of the most sought after trophies in the world.

The bowl (or cup) was a gift from Lord Stanley of Preston. He arrived in Ottawa as the recently appointed Governor General of Canada and travelled the immense country, immersing himself in the people and culture of his newly adopted land.

An avid sportsman, he witnessed his first hockey match at Montreal’s 1889 Winter Carnival and became an instant fan. His two sons, Arthur and Algernon, began playing the winter sport and suggested their father institute a trophy that would be awarded to the top hockey team each year.

In 1893, Lord Stanley responded to their request, saying he had decided to donate a “challenge cup which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion (of Canada).” He purchased a bowl from a silversmith in England, and had the words “from Stanley of Preston” engraved on the outside.

From that point on, it grew to become the most coveted sporting trophies in North America. In its early stages, teams from across Canada would mount challenges to compete for what had become known as Stanley’s Cup. The Montreal Hockey Club was the inaugural winner of the trophy, which was awarded to amateur teams until 1915, when it became the property of three professional hockey leagues operating in North America. In 1926 the NHL merged as the sole professional league, and the Stanley Cup became its permanent property.

Perhaps the most colourful Cup challenge came in 1905 from the Dawson City Nuggets, a rag-tag side composed mostly of goldminers who traveled 6,400 km from the Yukon by foot, dog-sled and train to take on the mighty Ottawa Hockey Club.

That the Ottawa side won easily (one game ended 23-2) is hardly relevant. The gallant challenge offered by the Dawson City Club captured the imagination of hockey fans and echoed the spirit of competition Lord Stanley had in mind when he donated his famous Cup.