Home > NHL > Have You Met My Friend Stanley?

Have You Met My Friend Stanley?

There is no trophy greater than THE trophy for hockey. Biased much? Probably. However, this is the only trophy in the sports world that is the same trophy year after year and has the name of every player to win it carved into it, as well as coaches and management. It’s been used as everything from a fertility good luck charm to a toilet or a bowl for humans and pets alike. It’s been dropped, dented, lost, stolen and held hostage. Through all of that, it’s been treasured and cherished more than any other trophy in professional sports.  So for those fans who aren’t as familiar with good old Stan here’s a little history lesson on the greatest trophy in sports.

How it all started
Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley of Preston and his family became highly active and involved in hockey. His two sons encouraged him to send a trophy or prize to recognize excellence in the sport. So in 1893 he sent the first chalice to the Ottawa Hockey Club. The chalice was originally purchased in England and was inscribed on both sides. The first part says “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup” and on the opposite side “From Stanley of Preston”.  Originally known as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, it was only renamed the Stanley Cup after Lord Stanley’s death in 1908.  The Cup is the oldest trophy in professional sports.  It pre-dates those used in the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

The playoff format started in 1917 and the NHL started using the trophy as their own in 1927 when the Ottawa Senators won it. That was the ‘old’ Senators, not the ‘new’ Senators. We’ll touch on that another time.

There were five original rules to the Cup, they are as listed:

  • The winners shall return the Cup in good order when required by the trustees so that it may be handed over to any other team which may win it.
  • Each winning team, at its own expense, may have the club name and year engraved on a silver ring fitted on the Cup.
  • The Cup shall remain a challenge cup, and should not become the property of one team, even if won more than once.
  • The trustees shall maintain absolute authority in all situations or disputes over the winner of the Cup.
  • If one of the existing trustees resigns or drops out, the remaining trustee shall nominate a substitute.
  • Who Has It, Who Wants It?

    The very first team to win the Cup was the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association.  Since then, the cup has been awarded every season except for 1918-1919 because of the flu epidemic and 2004-2005 because of the NHL lockout. The Montreal Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup a record 24 times, although two of their championships pre-dated the NHL.  The Toronto Maple Leafs, in second place, have won 13 Cups.  The Detroit Red Wings are in third place with 11 championships and represent the most successful American franchise in the league.  The next closest franchises are the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers who have each won 5 trophies.  Edmonton is the only non-Original Six team in the top five.  There are 13 NHL franchises currently in existence that have never won the Cup.

    One of the great dynasties was the Canadiens team that won 5 straight championships between 1956 and 1960.  That is a mark that has never been matched since.  The Maple Leafs were also dominant in that era.  The only team other than those to to take home the Cup between 1956 and 1969 was the Chicago Blackhawks in 1961.  The Canadiens also won four Cups in a row between 1976 and 1979.  Their dynasty was followed by four straight championships for the New York Islanders.  Recently, the closest thing the NHL has had to a dynasty was the Red Wings who won 4 Cups in a span of eleven seasons between 1997 and 2008 (lockout excluded).

     What Makes it Special?

    The Stanley Cup has numerous special traditions that set it apart from other championship trophies.  Immediately following a team’s victory, the Cup is presented to the Captain of the winning team.  He gets the first chance to hoist the Cup above his head, thus kicking off the celebration.  Each team member is given a chance to skate with the Cup, and the player the Captain passes the Cup to first is often chosen symbolically.  This tradition began in 1950 when Ted Lindsay, then Captain of the Wings, was the first to skate the Cup around the ice.  He would later say that he did so in order to give the fans a better view of the trophy.  His actions that night inspired a tradition that has remained for generations. The first Captain to not hoist the Cup above his head before his teammates was Joe Sakic in 2001. Sakic handed the Cup to teammate and Alternate Captain Ray Bourque. Bourque had spent 21 years with the Boston Bruins, prior to winning the Cup with Colorado. At that time, Bourque had waited longer to win his first Cup than any other Cup-winning player had in the history of the Stanley Cup, having played 1,826 regular season and playoff games combined.

    One of the greatest things about the Cup is the fact that each and every player on the winning team gets his name engraved on it.  It’s the perfect way to immortalize the triumphant winners of the ultimate team sport.  The original Challenge Cup consisted only of the bowl that makes up the upper part of the Cup.  Over time, additional bands were added to the cup to fit all of the names.  Nowadays, the Cup has stopped growing, and one of the bands is removed every thirteen years to make room for the next series of winners.  More than 2,000 names have been engraved on the Cup.  In order for a player to qualify to have his name on the Cup, he must play at least 40 regular season games or one in the Finals for his team.  In the past, the NHL has made some exceptions if teams petition for special circumstances.  Legend Jean Beliveau has his name on the Cup the most times of any individual–10 as a player and 7 as a member of management.  There are also 12 women whose names are engraved on the Cup, the first being Marguerite Norris who was president of the Wings when they won Championships in the 1950s.

    Another unique and special Cup tradition allows each member of the winning team to spend a day with the trophy during the off-season.  The Cup has traveled throughout the world visiting players’ hometowns. It has visited countless children’s hospitals and pediatric centers to brighten the spirits of young fans who are fighting serious illnesses.  Recently, the Cup has made trips to combat zones in Afghanistan and was even in an area target by missile strikes, though it was not damaged in the attacks.

    The Best (or Worst) Stanley Cup Stories

    Food and Beverage
    One of the main traditions associated with Stanley’s Cup is drinking from it. Champagne, beer, liquor, you name it, it’s probably been in the Cup. It’s not just players who are drinking from it. In 2007 I had a chance to drink from it, but I was the DD so I had to decline. Biggest regret of my life.

    In 2003 Martin Brodeur enjoyed a ‘cup’ of salty, buttery popcurn. Teammate Jamie Langenbrunner had to clean it out eight days later.

    In 2006 Doug Weight decided to share the joy of Stanley with his children. What better way to enjoy a hefty trophy when you’re young than to eat ice cream out of it? Doug filled the chalice with gallons of ice cream, syrup, candies.

    Humans aren’t the only ones enjoying a meal or drink out of the Cup. In the 1980s, Clark Gillies of the New York Islanders fed his dog with the Cup.
    It’s rumored that Ed Olczyk let Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin eat out of the Cup at the Belmont. Olczyk states he simply brought the Cup to the races. Given the Rangers’ history with the Cup and the fact that the NHL hired Stan some personal escorts the next year, that’s highly doubtful.
    Extracurricular Activities
    In the 1980s Bryan Trottier slept with Stan, and last year Sidney Crosby also had Stan in his bed. There’s been about a dozen or so other players who have also slept with Stanley. 
    Due to certain players the Cup is no longer allowed to go for a swim. In 1991 when the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Minnesota North Stars. Bourque and the Cup went for a little swim in Mario Lemiuex’s backyard pool. The Cup sank to the bottom and had to be fished out. Not before part of the Cup could be broken off and later repaired with Duct Tape. 
    Two years later the Montreal Canadiens learned the Cup didn’t float well (muscle to fat ratio must be off or something) in Patrick Roy’s pool.
    Then in 1999 when the Dallas Stars won the Cup it went swimming again. While there are two very different stories as to how it got that dent. We’ll let you decide. One is that the Cup accidentally got knocked into the pool while resting beside it and got dented the day before. The other is that someone tossed it over a balcony towards the Crown Royal shaped pool and it got dinged hitting the side of the pool before going in.
    Stan’s climbed mountains (Fisher Peak, British Columbia and Mt. Elbert, Colorado), gone on a fishing trip with Brad Richards, been on a roller coaster, went to the Hollywood sign, was in a Rose Bowl Parade, and even served as a ringer bearer for Andre Roy in a helicopter piloted by Guy Lafleur. He first left the United States in 1996 with Peter Forsberg on a trip to Sweden and his first visit to Russia was 1997 with Detroit Red Wings players Slava Fetisov, Slava Kozlov and Igor Larionov. The Cup has hung out with Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
    In 1996 Mike Ricci brought Stan as his guest to a party with friends. A couple who had been having difficulties conceiving for over fourteen years was in attendance. Cheryl Riley had been told she had better chances to win the lottery and get hit by lightning in the same year than conceive. At the party Mrs. Riley kissed Stanley. Upon learning they would be having a baby they retraced to find their conception date, which was the week after she had kissed the Cup. They named their son Stanley C. Gordon Jeff Riley.
    That same year, 1996, Sylvain Lefebvre of the Colorado Avalanche had his first child Jade-Isis Lefebvre baptized in the Cup. In 2006 Andrew Hutchison of the Carolina Hurricanes had wanted to do the same but Stanley’s flight was delayed and son Cole had to be baptized the old fashioned way. In 2008 Tomas Holmstrom baptized his daughter in Sweden using the Cup.

    In 1964 Red Kelly of the Toronto Maple Leafs sat his infant son in there only to discover his son had urinated in there.

    In 2008 Kris Draper spent his day with the Cup one week after winning it with the Detroit Red Wings, their eleventh Cup victory. Kris put his daughter Kamryn into the Cup and she did what many babies do, went to the bathroom. Kamryn deficated in the Cup, but it was cleaned and sanitized and Draper reportedly drank out of the Cup later that day.

    Babies aren’t the only ones using the Cup as a bathroom. In 1940 New York Rangers Lynn Patrick urinated into the Cup.

    Theft, Bumps, and Vandalism
    In 1905, before the NHL ‘owned’ the rights to the Cup, the Ottawa Senators were spending the night out celebrating. One member accepted a dare to drop kick the then ‘chalice’ or bowl like trophy across the Rideau Canal. The canal was frozen and the Cup skipped off the ice into the darkness. It had to be retrieved the following day.
    In 1906 the Montreal Wanderers left the Cup at a photographer’s home where it was then stolen. The thief demanded a ransom, was not given it, and returned the Cup to the photographer’s home. Upon its return the photographer’s mother used the Cup to plant her flowers, specifically Geraniums, in it. The Wanderers finally figured out where it was and went to retrieve it.
    In 1907 a Kenora Thistles team manager almost threw it in Lake of the Woods when two players’ eligibility. In 1924 the Montreal Canadiens accidentally left it in a snowbank after removing it from the trunk of the car. The players were changing a flat tire and didn’t realize they had left it behind until they went to drink Champagne out of the Cup and there was no Cup to speak of. In 1925 manager and coach Lester Patrick’s children Lynn Patrick and Muzz Patrick carved their names into the Cup. They officially made the Cup in 1940 with the Rangers.
    In 1940 the entire mortgage of Madison Square Gardens had been paid off so management decided to burn cash that was equivalent to the mortgage payment in the Cup. This was the Rangers’ third win, and started what many believe to be a 54 year curse before they won the Cup again in 1994. Then again you could blame Lynn Patrick for that as well.
    In 1961 a crazed Montreal Canadiens fan broke the casing and stole the Cup at Chicago Stadium because the Canadiens were losing the deciding game. His excuse was he was bringing it back to Montreal where it rightly belonged.
    In 1962 the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped Stan in a Bonfire. Stan was badly damaged and was repaired at the expense of the team.
    After winning the Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 Phil Bourque was spending his day with Stanley when the Cup started making rattling noises. Bourque took it upon himself to see what it was. Upon dismantling the Cup Bourque noticed some repairmen had etched their own names on the inside. So Bourque left his own message inside, “Enjoy it, Phil Bubba Bourque, ’91 Penguins.”
    Categories: NHL
    1. Linda Hamilton
      June 11, 2010 at 1:37 pm

      “It’s rumored that Ed Olczyk let Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin eat out of the Cup at the Belmont. Olczyk states he simply brought the Cup to the races”

      He did bring it out to Belmont and let the horse eat from it and then after that it was shared with the fans. I was there and have photos. Great day

      • June 11, 2010 at 1:39 pm


        What a fun experience! A two for one if you will. Great event AND a visit from Lord Stanley. Have any pictures of the horse eating out of it? 😉


    2. Linda Hamilton
      June 11, 2010 at 9:56 pm

      Courtney-I will have to look for photos but I know I have a few from the day.

    3. Linda Hamilton
      June 20, 2010 at 3:08 pm

      Courtney-I found a few photos-let me know how to send them to you

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