Why is the NHL trophy called the Stanley Cup?
The oldest trophy in North American sports, the Stanley Cup is one of the most sought-after pieces of silverware in sports. But why is it called that?
The oldest trophy in North American sports, the Stanley Cup is the only trophy onto which the names of every member of the winning team is engraved. It is considered one of the most difficult trophies to obtain and has an almost mystical aura about it.
Sir Stanley and his NHL cup
Commissioned in 1892 by Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, Lord Stanley of Preston, who was at that time the Governor General of Canada, and an ardent hockey fan, the original cup was commissioned as a bowl measuring 8.5 centimetres (7.28 inches) high and 29 centimetres (11.42 inches) wide to be made of a silver and nickel alloy at a cost of ten guineas (around $1500 today).
Engraved around the rim of that original cup were the words “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup” and “from Stanley of Preston”. Colloquially, the prize began to be referred to as Lord Stanley’s Cup, later shortened to the Stanley Cup.
Of course the cup that is hoisted today is much altered from that original trophy, with bands added as each team won the item and had their names engraved upon it. Over the years, the added bands gave the cup its long, conical shape, and as the names have piled up, so bands have had to be removed to make way for new names to be added.
Since 1963, the design has been standardized and a new cup made as a replica of the original, since it was felt that the original was simply too brittle to be presented to the winning team. Thirty years later, a replica was made and put on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The value of the cup may have been set at the cost of the materials and workmanship, but its value in the eyes of the legion of hockey fans around the world cannot be measured in dollars and cents. As the item of desire for every player and team, hockey’s Holy Grail, the pinnacle of achievement in the sport is beyond money, meaning so much more to so many people.
As a hockey fan, Lord Stanley would have wanted it that way.