History of the Stanley Cup Trophy

In 1888, Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley was appointed Governor General of Canada. That winter, he watched his first hockey game in his official capacity as governor general, between the Montreal Victorias and Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (MAAA). According to the Montreal Gazette, “Lord Stanley expressed his great delight with the game of hockey and the expertise of the players.” Stanley wasn’t the only hockey fan in his family: his daughter, Isobel, soon picked up the sport, as did sons Edward, Arthur and Algernon. Organized hockey was still relatively new and only Montréal and Ottawa had regular leagues at the time, but it was quickly becoming a popular sport.

On 18 March 1892, Stanley announced that he would donate a “challenge cup, which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion of Canada.” He subsequently had a small silver bowl made in London, England, which arrived in Ottawa in early 1893. Originally called the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, it quickly became known as the Stanley Cup. The Cup would be awarded by the trustees, the first of whom — Dr. John Sweetland and Philip Dansken Ross — were appointed by Stanley before he returned to England in 1893. Dr. Sweetland, sheriff of Carleton County (now Ottawa), was a trustee until his death in 1907, while Ross remained a trustee until his death in 1949.

Stanley had stipulated that winning teams could add a silver ring to the bowl, on which their team names could be engraved (though not all teams chose to have their names engraved during the early years). In 1893, the first recipient of the Stanley Cup — the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (MAAA) — added a base ring that was used by teams until 1903, when it became too full. From then until 1909, winning teams were engraved on the bowl itself. In 1907, the Montreal Wanderers became the first to engrave the names of individual team members (however, it didn’t become standard practice to engrave individual names until 1924).

A new base ring was attached in 1909 by the Ottawa Senators, who won the Cup that year, and many rings were added in subsequent years. By the mid-1940s, the Stanley Cup resembled a tall “stovepipe” and had become unwieldy and impractical. The Cup was, therefore, redesigned in 1947 and again in 1957.

The Stanley Cup now includes a replica of the original silver bowl, underneath which sit the bands from 1893 to 1927 and a shoulder corral engraved with the names of all the winning teams from 1892–3 (MAAA) to 1991–92 (Pittsburgh Penguins). Underneath are five wider barrel bands, each with enough room for 13 teams (including the names of individual members). When the most recent band (at the bottom) has been filled, the oldest band (at the top) is removed and retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The original Stanley Cup bowl is on permanent display at the Hockey Hall of Fame, as are the bands from the stovepipe design (1927–28 to 1944–45) and the retired bands from the current Stanley Cup design: the 1927–28 to 1939–40 barrel band and the 1940–41 to 1952–53 barrel band. The Hockey Hall of Fame also holds a replica of the current Stanley Cup so that there is always a version available for visitors to view. The actual Stanley Cup is presented to the winning team and, since 1993, each winning player has been allowed to keep the Cup for a day during the summer after their victory.

Stanley Cup Lost, Stolen and Drop-Kicked

The Cup has had a colourful history and has been lost, misplaced and stolen on several occasions. According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, members of the victorious Ottawa Silver Seven decided to drop-kick the trophy into the Rideau Canal after their victory in 1905 – it was rescued from the canal the following day. Two years later, the Montreal Wanderers left the Cup with a photographer, whose mother decided it would make a great flower pot – after a few months, the team retrieved the trophy and restored it to its original purpose. In 1924, the victorious Montreal Canadiens mistakenly left the Cup in a snowbank after stopping to change a flat tire on the way to a party – fortunately, they remembered later that evening.

The Stanley Cup has also been stolen. In 1962, Kenneth Kilander, a Montreal Canadiens fan, tried to take the Cup from the Chicago Stadium during a semifinal game between the Canadiens and Chicago Black Hawks. In 1970, the Cup’s original silver collar was stolen from the Hockey Hall of Fame and wasn’t recovered until September 1977 — Diomed Karrys, the operator of a dry-cleaning store, was charged with possession of stolen property. A few months earlier, in March 1977, seven students from the Université de Montréal were caught trying to steal the Cup itself as part of a scavenger hunt — the group was released without charges. In 1979, the Cup was “borrowed” by Guy Lafleur after the Canadiens’ victory parade. Lafleur stowed the trophy in the trunk of his car and took it to Thurso, Québec, where his parents lived. While family and neighbours enjoyed seeing the Cup, the trustees weren’t as happy.

The Stanley Cup: Challenge Era (1893–1914)

The Stanley Cup was originally intended as an award for the top hockey club in Canada. Known as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup at the time, it was first awarded to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (MAAA), whose affiliate team — the Montreal Hockey Club — was the 1892–93 champion of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada. Other teams could challenge the champions at any point during the season. This changed in 1912, when the Stanley Cup trustees decided that challenges could only come at the end of the champion’s regular season. In 1915, the National Hockey Association (NHA) and Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) decided that the Cup should be contested by their respective league champions, effectively ending the challenge era.

In the early years, the Stanley Cup was dominated by teams from Montreal: the MAAA (1892–93, 1901–02), Montreal Victorias (1894–95, 1897–98), Montreal Shamrocks (1898–99, 1899–1900) and Montreal Wanderers (1905–06, 1907–08, 1909–10). However, the Cup was also captured by the Winnipeg Victorias (1895–96, 1900–01), Ottawa Silver Seven (1902–03, 1903–04, 1904–05), Kenora Thistles (1906–07), Ottawa Senators (1908–09, 1910–11), Quebec Bulldogs (1911–12, 1912–13), Toronto Blueshirts (1913–14) and Vancouver Millionaires (1914–15).

The Stanley Cup: Rise of the Professionals

As hockey increased in popularity, both in Canada and the United States, many teams began employing professional players. In 1906, the sport’s top league, the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association (ECAHA), decided to allow professional players. Two years later, in 1908, the two amateur teams in the league — the Montreal Hockey Club and Montreal Victorias — decided to leave, forming the Interprovincial Amateur Hockey Union. The ECAHA dropped “amateur” from its name and became a professional-only league: the ECHA, briefly known as the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA) in 1910. From that point on, the Stanley Cup became a trophy for professional hockey teams. In recognition of this development, Sir H. Montagu Allan donated a trophy in 1909 to be awarded to the top amateur team in Canada (see Allan Cup).

In 1910, the National Hockey Association (NHA) was formed, while the CHA folded.The following season, the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA), another professional league, began playing. NHA teams dominated the Stanley Cup for four seasons, with the Ottawa Senators winning in 1910–11, the Quebec Bulldogs in 1911–12 and 1912–13 and the Toronto Blueshirts in 1913–14. In 1915, the NHA and PCHA agreed that the Cup should be contested between their two league champions. The 1914–15 Stanley Cup was won by the PCHA’s Vancouver Millionaires, who became the first Western team to take the championship.

The Stanley Cup Expands to the United States

When the Portland Rosebuds, an American team, joined the PCHA in 1914, the Stanley Cup was transformed in another way. What had begun as a trophy for the top amateur hockey team in Canada had become a prize for the best professional team in North America (and, effectively, the world). In 1916–17, the Seattle Metropolitans became the first American team to win the Stanley Cup.

Another important development occurred in 1917, with the creation of the National Hockey League (NHL), which replaced the National Hockey Association. Five years later, the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL) was created and the format of the Stanley Cup Final was altered: the three leagues —NHL, PCHA and WCHL — would pit their champions against one another in the Stanley Cup Final from 1922 until 1925, when the PCHA and WCHL merged to form the Western Hockey League (WHL). When the Victoria Cougars won the 1924–25 championship, they became the last non-NHL team to win the Stanley Cup.

Stanley Cup Final Cancelled Due to Influenza Epidemic (1919)

The Stanley Cup Final has only been cancelled twice since its inception: the first time (in 1919) was due to a worldwide outbreak of influenza, and the second time (2005) was due to a labour dispute. The Spanish Flu, which claimed more than 21 million lives from 1918 to 1919, resulted in the cancellation of the Stanley Cup Final between the Montreal Canadiens and Seattle Metropolitans. Both teams had won two games each in the series when most of the Canadiens team became ill with the flu. Many Seattle players fell ill as well. Canadiens player Joe Hall died in Seattle only a few days after the series was cancelled, while team owner and general manager George Kennedy never fully recovered and died in 1921.

The Stanley Cup Under the NHL

In 1926, the Stanley Cup came under the exclusive control of the National Hockey League (NHL). That year, the Western Hockey League (WHL) folded and was replaced by the Prairie Hockey League (PHL). However, the NHL had bought up the contracts of the best WHL players and added three American teams to the league. In comparison to the NHL, the PHL was considered a “minor” league and folded after two seasons. The Stanley Cup effectively became the championship trophy for the NHL, the only remaining major professional hockey league in North America. Although other leagues and teams issued challenges for the Stanley Cup, they were not accepted by the Cup trustees. In 1947, the NHL formally gained control of the Stanley Cup.

The Cup has been awarded every year since then, except in 2005. In February 2005, the NHL officially cancelled its entire 2004–05 season due to a bitter labour dispute between the National Hockey League Players’ Association and NHL team owners over a proposed players’ salary cap. Cancellation of the season rendered the Stanley Cup Final impossible that year.

Stanley Cup Champions

The Montreal Canadiens, with 24 victories (including five straight wins from 1956 to 1960), have been the most successful team in Stanley Cup history, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise with 13 wins (including one as the Toronto Arenas in 1918 and one as the Toronto St. Patricks in 1922) and the Detroit Red Wings with 11.

The first “dynasty” was the Ottawa Hockey Club, which won 11 Stanley Cups between 1903 and 1927: four as the Ottawa Silver Seven and seven as the Ottawa Senators. From 1932–33 to 1940–41, the Stanley Cup was won by American teams: the New York Rangers, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins. However, from the 1940s through the 1970s, the championship was dominated by the Canadiens (18 wins) and the Leafs (10 wins), while the Red Wings won five times during the same period.

In the 1980s, the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers dominated Stanley Cup play, each winning the cup four times. The 1990s saw much more parity in the league. The Oilers added a fifth win in 1989–1990, while the Pittsburgh Penguins (1990–91, 1991–92) and Detroit Red Wings (1996–97, 1997–98) managed back-to-back wins. Since 2000, the Red Wings have won another two Stanley Cup championships, as have the Pittsburgh Penguins (with star forward Sidney Crosby) and Los Angeles Kings (coached by Darryl Sutter). The Chicago Blackhawks have won three championships since 2010 alone, bringing their total to six.

Stanley Cup Champions Table

1892-93 Montreal AAA 1894-95 Montreal Victorias
1895-96 Winnipeg Victorias 1896-97 Montreal Victorias
1897-98 Montreal Victorias 1898-99 Montreal Shamrocks
1899-1900 Montreal Shamrocks 1900-01 Winnipeg Victorias
1901-02 Montreal AAA 1902-03 Ottawa Silver Seven
1903-04 Ottawa Silver Seven 1904-05 Ottawa Silver Seven
1905-06 Montreal Wanderers 1906-07 Kenora Thistles
1907-08 Montreal Wanderers 1908-09 Ottawa Senators
1909-10 Montreal Wanderers 1910-11 Ottawa Senators
1911-12 Quebec Bulldogs 1912-13 Quebec Bulldogs
1913-14 Toronto Blue Shirts 1914-15 Vancouver Millionaires
1915-16 Montreal Canadiens 1916-17 Seattle Metropolitans
1917-18 Toronto Arenas 1918-19 No Challengers*
1919-20 Ottawa Senators 1920-21 Ottawa Senators
1921-22 Toronto St Pats 1922-23 Ottawa Senators
1923-24 Montreal Canadiens 1924-25 Victoria Cougars
1925-26 Montreal Maroons 1926-27 Ottawa Senators
1927-28 New York Rangers 1928-29 Boston Bruins
1929-30 Montreal Canadiens 1930-31 Montreal Canadiens
1931-32 Toronto Maple Leafs 1932-33 New York Rangers
1933-34 Chicago Black Hawks 1934-35 Montreal Maroons
1935-36 Detroit Red Wings 1936-37 Detroit Red Wings
1937-38 Chicago Black Hawks 1938-39 Boston Bruins
1939-40 New York Rangers 1940-41 Boston Bruins
1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs 1942-43 Detroit Red Wings
1943-44 Montreal Canadiens 1944-45 Toronto Maple Leafs
1945-46 Montreal Canadiens 1946-47 Toronto Maple Leafs
1947-48 Toronto Maple Leafs 1948-49 Toronto Maple Leafs
1949-50 Detroit Red Wings 1950-51 Toronto Maple Leafs
1951-52 Detroit Red Wings 1952-53 Montreal Canadiens
1953-54 Detroit Red Wings 1954-55 Detroit Red Wings
1955-56 Montreal Canadiens 1956-57 Montreal Canadiens
1957-58 Montreal Canadiens 1958-59 Montreal Canadiens
1959-60 Montreal Canadiens 1960-61 Chicago Black Hawks
1961-62 Toronto Maple Leafs 1962-63 Toronto Maple Leafs
1963-64 Toronto Maple Leafs 1964-65 Montreal Canadiens
1965-66 Montreal Canadiens 1966-67 Toronto Maple Leafs
1967-68 Montreal Canadiens 1968-69 Montreal Canadiens
1969-70 Boston Bruins 1970-71 Montreal Canadiens
1971-72 Boston Bruins 1972-73 Montreal Canadiens
1973-74 Philadelphia Flyers 1974-75 Philadelphia Flyers
1975-76 Montreal Canadiens 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens
1977-78 Montreal Canadiens 1978-79 Montreal Canadiens
1979-80 New York Islanders 1980-81 New York Islanders
1981-82 New York Islanders 1982-83 New York Islanders
1983-84 Edmonton Oilers 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers
1985-86 Montreal Canadiens 1986-87 Edmonton Oilers
1987-88 Edmonton Oilers 1988-89 Calgary Flames
1989-90 Edmonton Oilers 1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins
1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens
1993-94 New York Rangers 1994-95 New Jersey Devils
1995-96 Colorado Avalanche 1996-97 Detroit Red Wings
1997-98 Detroit Red Wings 1998-99 Dallas Stars
1999-2000 New Jersey Devils 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche
2001-02 Detroit Red Wings 2002-03 New Jersey Devils
2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning 2004-05 No Challengers**
2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks
2007-08 Detroit Red Wings 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins
2009-10 Chicago Black Hawks 2010-11 Boston Bruins
2011-12 Los Angeles Kings 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks
2013-14 Los Angeles Kings 2014-15 Chicago Blackhawks
2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins

*Series cancelled during influenza epidemic

**Season cancelled due to strike