Hockey’s Holy Grail

“I have for some time past been thinking it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion… I am willing to give a cup which shall be held from year to year by the winning team.”

Lord Stanley of Preston, March 18, 1892

Overshadowing all other championship trophies in sports, the legend and glory of the Stanley Cup lives in the dreams of hockey players and fans across Canada and around the world. Notably the oldest trophy competed for by professional athletes in North America, the Stanley Cup was donated in 1892 by Canada’s sixth Governor General, Lord Stanley of Preston. He purchased the trophy for 10 Guineas ($50 at that time). The first team ever awarded the Stanley Cup was the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association in 1893.

Since 1910, when the National Hockey Association took possession of the Stanley Cup, the trophy has been symbolic of professional hockey supremacy. Beginning in 1926, only National Hockey League teams have competed for this prized trophy. Montreal Canadiens have won a record 23 Stanley Cup Championships since the formation of the NHL in 1917 (they also won in 1916), with the Toronto Maple Leafs second at 13. The Habs also hold the record for most consecutive Championships with five, accomplished between the years 1956 and 1960 inclusive.

34.5 pounds of history

Numerous alterations have been made to the Cup’s structure. In its infancy, tiered rings were added periodically to the bottom of the bowl. Long narrow bands were added in 1927, which were replaced by uneven bands 20 years later.

Because the Cup is the only professional sports trophy where the name of every member of the winning team is inscribed, bands are often retired to make room for new champions. Retired bands, along with the original Stanley Cup bowl, are proudly displayed in Lord Stanley’s Vault in the Esso Great Hall at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Lord Stanley’s mug today consists of a bowl, three tiered bands, a collar and five barrel or uniform bands. The trophy stands at 35 ¼ inches and weighs 34 ½ pounds.

A tradition without rival

Each year, upon presentation of the trophy to the championship team, a summer of celebration begins, as each of the organization’s players and staff enjoy 24 hours with the Cup—a tradition that has no rival in any sport. In its many years of existence, the Stanley Cup has travelled around the world, including stays in Russia, Japan and Switzerland, as well as atop mountain peaks in the Rockies and inside igloos in Nunavut.


Here are additional resources to learn more about the Stanley Cup.

Charles L. Coleman.
The Trail of the Stanley Cup. v. 1 & v. 2.
Montreal: National Hockey League, 1966.

Dan Diamond, ed.
The Official National Hockey League Stanley Cup Centennial Book.
Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1992.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography. v. XIII.
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994. p. 984-986.

William Houston.
Pride and Glory: 100 Years of the Stanley Cup.
Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1992.

D’Arcy Jenish.
The Stanley Cup: A Hundred Years of Hockey at its Best.
Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1992.

Paul Kitchen.
“They Refused the Stanley Cup.”
in Total Hockey. 2d ed. p. 20-24.

Paul Kitchen.
Win, Tie, or Wrangle: The Inside Story of the Old Ottawa Senators,1883-1935. Manotick, Ontario: Penumbra Press, 2008.

Brian McFarlane.
Stanley Cup Fever: 100 Years of Hockey Greatness.
Toronto: Stoddart,1992.

National Hockey League Official Guide and Record Book 2008.
Toronto: Dan Diamond, 2007.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. v. 52.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. p. 207, 208.

Andrew Podnieks.
Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Bolton, Ontario: Fenn, 2004.

Joseph Romain and James Duplacey.
The Stanley Cup. n.p.:
W.H. Smith Publishers, 1989.

Kevin Shea and John Jason Wilson.
Lord Stanley: The Man Behind the Cup. Bolton, Ontario: Fenn, 2006.

Total Hockey: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Hockey League. 2d ed. Kingston, New York: Total Sports, 2000.