Thursday 15 January 2015


Changes in design of Stanley Cup from the original to the existing
It was in the winter of 1888, at the age of 47, Frederick Arthur received an offer to be the governor-general of Dominion of Canada, which he accepted without any hesitation. The next five years was all about travelling the country, aiding the political developments, supporting the military arrangements before he resigned his position to return to his homeland, London to become the 16th Earl of Preston. Before he left Canada, he donated a trophy for the best team in the Canadian amateur ice hockey - which we now know it as 'Stanley Cup'.

Born to a former prime minister of United Kingdom, it was evident Frederick Arthur Stanley would join the political affairs following his father's footsteps. However, being a poor orator when compared with his illustrious father, Frederick Arthur Stanley had other skills - most notably in matters related to administration. It is this 'skill' which impressed the political guardians of the United Kingdom and eventually landed him the post of 'Governor General of Canada'.

Three of his sons took early interest to the game of ice hockey whilst in Canada. Being a sports fan, Frederick Arthur Stanley was often seen to witness the local ice hockey matches. Together with James George Aylwin Creighton, the Nova Scotian law clerk of the Senate in a 'sporty' gesture formed a junior ice hockey team under the name of 'Rideau Hall Rebels' in 1889. A year later, his son Arthur would form the Ontario Hockey Association.

However, the matches that were played in the Dominion of Canada were sparse and had no definite structure and Frederick Arthur Stanley felt the need to have some sort of 'challenge' to ensure the fine sport of ice hockey would have a 'symbol'. In this context, he proposed the need of a 'challenge cup' held annually in a competition which had rules and structure - and in the end, the winners would claim the 'trophy'.

Montreal Hockey Club - 1st recipients of 'Stanley Cup' 
This proposal made at a dinner event for the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association in 1892 was heartily received by the members and Lord Stanley wasted no time in purchasing a silver cup 7" high and 11" wide for a sum of 10 guineas. He also formulated few rules which stipulated - the trophy never to become a private property of the winning team irrespective of the number of times a team wins and to oversee this and many other rules he appointed two 'trustees' - Ottawa Sheriff John Sweetland and Philip D. Ross to look after the matters pertaining to this 'Challenge Cup'. And like this, in 1893 the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association became the first recipient of 'Challenge Cup' when they topped the standings of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada.

Lord Stanley could not see the impact he had on the ice hockey community of Canada. He was back in England as the 16th  Earl of Preston, replacing his deceased brother. Meanwhile in Canada, the Stanley cup had become a popular annual event. Up until 1910, only amateur clubs took part in the competition and with the formation of National Hockey League the same year, Stanley Cup became a competition for the professional clubs while the amateur clubs competed for 'Allen Cup'. It took further 15 years and disbanding of two other professional associations for National Hockey League to prevail on its own. After a lot of change in the rules in awarding the Stanley Cup, since 1926, the winners of the NHL have been awarded with the 'Stanley Cup', a tradition which is followed till date.

If one looks at the modern Stanley cup design and compare it with the original - there is a striking difference. The trophy has grown in size, literally, after many experimentations with the design through the years. From a plain silver bowl with a band, it now has a replica of the original bowl made of silver and nickel alloy - and weighs close to 16 kg. And the height! - it has increased four folds from the original size and is now 89.54 cm tall!

After all the permutations and combinations for the most 'efficient' design, the Stanley cup has a five band barrel to support the bowl. 13 winning team entries can be made per band and each team entry consists of the winning players, coaches, management and club staff engraved on its chalice. To prevent the cup from growing, when the bottom band is full, the oldest band is removed and a fresh band is attached to the bottom. The removed band is treasured in the 'Hockey Hall of Fame' just like it houses the original "Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup" and the "Replica Cup".  To this date, NHL does not own the trophy and through agreement with the two trustees of the cup, NHL awards 'Stanley Cup' to the winners. The trophy is not made each year due to its complex nature; instead winners keep it until a fresh champion is crowned - a sort of rolling trophy, if you may call it.


Stanley with the original Stanley Cup at Hockey Hall of Fame 
What started as a mere gesture to encourage a sport which his children took liking to - and had an active interest, it was little known that a donation of a cup would be the lasting legacy of Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley. He never watched a single game of 'Stanley Cup' in his life and at the time of his demise (in 1907), the competition was an 'amateurs' only tournament. I am pretty sure little did he imagine the kind of evolution that would take place in the following years for a cup worth of 10 guineas (50 USD) would change the face of ice hockey in Canada and globally. 

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