Lord Stanley was an British citizen who served as the Governor-General of
Canada in the years when Canada a British colony. During his years there,
Lord Stanley shared the people's love for ice hockey and wanted to give
Canada's amateur teams a special prize for which to compete.
THERE WERE NO PROFESSIONAL hockey leagues in that era,
and the Stanley Cup was reserved for the winners of Canada's amateur
championship. The first winner was the Montreal AAA team in 1893. For the
next 17 years, amateur teams were entitled to "challenge" the reigning
champions for possession of the Stanley Cup. A single victory would force
the Cup to change hands -- and many teams took possession it in those early
By 1910 a professional hockey league known as the National Hockey
Association began managing the annual Stanley Cup competition. The trophy
was now awarded to the top professional team in Canada -- which might emerge
from any number of smaller leagues. Some teams that would later combine to
form the modern-day NHL won the Cup in this era, including the Ottawa
Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, and Montreal Canadiens.
The NHL played its first official season in 1917-18, but the league did
not yet control the Cup. The NHL champions still had to face the champions
of the old WCHL to determine the Cup winner. NHL teams won seven of the
first eight championships under this format -- the lone exception being
1925, when Lester Patrick's Victoria Cougars upended the Canadiens 3-1 in a
As the most powerful professional league in North America, the NHL
finally took full-time custody of the Cup in 1926, making it the centerpiece
of its annual championship series. By 1946, the NHL owned all rights to the
trophy that had once been reserved for amateurs.
The names of each championship team's players are engraved on the Stanley
Cup. Over the years, several rings have been added to the Cup's base in
order to accommodate all the names.
Fans can view this symbol of hockey excellence on display at the Hockey
Hall of Fame in Toronto, at the annual NHL All-Star Game or during the
Stanley Cup Finals. The Cup has also been taken on tour across North America
so that fans in all NHL cities might view it. It took its longest trip in
1997 when several members of the Detroit Red Wings brought it to Russia.