In its early years, the Stanley Cup was a challenge trophy, meaning that the champion team of any senior league was eligible to compete for it against the current holder. The cup could therefore change hands during the course of a season. In the first ten years in which the cup was awarded (1893-1903), teams representing five associations in Quebec, Ontario, the Maritimes, and Manitoba competed for it at one time or another. Among them were the Winnipeg Victorias, who successfully challenged twice, successfully defended once, and lost five times. Other unsuccessful challenges from beyond the AHAC were Queen’s University (twice) and the Toronto Wellingtons, both of the OHA; the Halifax Crescents; and the Ottawa Capitals of the short-lived Central Canada Hockey Association.
In 1907 the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association, the premier senior league, formally began allowing professionals to participate and in 1909 dropped the word “Amateur” from its name. In 1910 a new professional league, the National Hockey Association (NHA), began play and from then through 1913 the NHA champion competed against the champions of other professional leagues for the cup. In 1914, the Stanley Cup series became an annual competition between the top teams of the two leading professional leagues, the NHA and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA). This annual east/west series ended in 1926 when the successor league to the PCHA, the Western Hockey League, dissolved. Since the National Hockey League, which replaced the NHA, was the only remaining premier professional league, it was no longer possible to have premier-level, inter-league competition for the cup. Therefore, in 1927 the Stanley Cup, by default, became the championship trophy, exclusively, of the NHL.
In only two years since its inception has the Stanley Cup not been awarded: in 1919 when the Spanish influenza epidemic halted the series between the Montreal Canadiens and the Seattle Metropolitans; and in 2005 when the NHL owners locked out the players. Over its 116-year history, the cup has been contested by teams representing twenty-one Canadian cities and towns in seven provinces and one territory. Teams from twenty American cities have also competed for the trophy.
Here are additional resources to learn more about Hockey.
Society For International Hockey Research:
Ice Hockey: Wikipedia
Borgen, Bob, and Bob Duff. “The Complete NHL Timeline.” In Total Hockey: The Official Encyclopedia of National Hockey League, edited by Dan Diamond.
Carrier, Roch (1985) The Hockey Sweater. Tundra Books
Dryden, Ken (2005). The Game: 20th Anniversary Edition. Toronto: Wiley Canada. Isbn 978-0-470-83584-5.
Farrell, Arthur (1899). Hockey: Canada’s Royal Winter Game (Pdf). Library and Archives Canada.
MacGregor , Roy (2015) : The Home Team, Fathers,Sons and Hockey:Penguin Random House Canada
Milks, James – 2010
Pucklore: The Hockey Research Anthology – Volume 1
Pearsall, David; Ashare, Alan (2003). Safety In Ice Hockey. Philadelphia: Astm International.
Selke, Frank (1962). Behind The Cheering. Toronto, Ontario: Mcclelland and Stewart Ltd.
Spadoni, Carl: Hockey Books and Canadian Culture, Mcmaster University.
Vaughan, Garth (1996). The Puck Starts Here: The Origin of Canada’s Great Winter Game. Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions.