The Stanley Cup was first awarded back in 1893, making it the oldest existing trophy to be awarded to a pro sports team throughout North America. It has a long and interesting history and is one of the most recognizable trophies in sports.
Every hockey player and/or fan grows up dreaming of winning the Stanley Cup and experiencing what it feels like to be seen as the best team in the world. Over the years, well over 1,000 players have realized this dream and hoisted the cup.
But just how old is the Stanley Cup and how long has it been given to the best hockey team in the world? Keep reading to find out.
- The Stanley Cup was first awarded to the Montreal Hockey Club in 1893. This makes it well over 100 years old (130 years old as of 2023) and is the oldest North American professional sports trophy.
- The Stanley Cup was originally given to amateur teams based on challenge games and league play, and professional teams became eligible for the Stanley Cup in 1906.
- It is called the Stanley Cup because it is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor General of Canada from 1888 to 1893, who donated it and supported the sport greatly in its early days.
The History of the Stanley Cup
We’ll first begin by learning more about the origins of the Stanley Cup, before getting into more detail about its history over the years.
The Origins of the Stanley Cup
The origins of the Stanley Cup date back to 1892 when Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor General of Canada from 1888 to 1893, decided to make an offer to donate a cup to serve as the visual sign of the hockey championship each year.
Lord Stanley and his family were major supporters of the sport, and not only helped it grow in Canada, but also around the world. Stanley would end up purchasing what was often described as a silver punch bowl made in England for a price equal to $1,468 in 2021 dollars.
This would serve as the first Stanley Cup, and it was engraved with “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup”, and soon became known as the Stanley Cup. The first year that the Stanley Cup was awarded was back in 1893, and it was won by the Montreal Hockey Club.
Competing for the Cup
Today, the Stanley Cup is awarded to the best team in the NHL during a given year. However, that wasn’t always the case. In the early days of the Stanley Cup, it was awarded only to amateur teams. Professional teams weren’t even eligible to compete until 1906.
During this time, it was awarded to teams based on league results for a few seasons, and then switched to a challenge format. Before 1912, challenges for the Stanley Cup could take place at any time, and multiple teams had to defend the Stanley Cup numerous times in a given year.
It was decided by the trustees which challenges were appropriate. After 1912, challenges for the Stanley Cup only took place at the end of the championship team’s regular season.
The next major development in terms of who competed for the Stanley Cup came in 1915. At the time, there were two main professional leagues for hockey, which were the NHA (National Hockey Association) and the PCHA (Pacific Coast Hockey Association).
The leagues entered an agreement where each of their champions would face off to be declared the Stanley Cup champions. Once the NHA dissolved, the NHL took its place. The interleague play for the Stanley Cup would continue for a few years.
While new leagues popped up every now and then, most would fold after a few seasons or fail to remain relevant, and simply couldn’t compete with the expanding NHL.
The NHL was the sole league to stand the test of time. Since 1926, only NHL teams have competed for the Stanley Cup, and in 1947, it became the official trophy for the NHL and no teams from any other leagues around the world could compete for it.
Multiple Stanley Cups
An interesting fact is that there are actually three Stanley Cups in existence. The original Stanley Cup that Lord Stanley donated is on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame, as it was becoming too brittle and old and old to be awarded to the winning team each year.
There is also the Presentation Cup, and this is the one that is awarded to teams, carried around the ice, and gets taken around the world by players the summer after it is won. When not only the road, it too can be found at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Lastly, there is the Permanent Cup. This replica trophy is always on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame when the actual Presentation Cup is traveling. This helps people visiting the Hall of Fame during the summer still get to see a version of the Stanley Cup.
Here are a few commonly asked questions about the Stanley Cup, as well as their answers.
Which team has won the most Stanley Cups?
No team has won more Stanley Cups than the Montreal Canadiens. They have won 24 throughout their history, which is 11 more than the second place Toronto Maple Leafs.
Which player has won the most Stanley Cups in history?
The player who has won more Stanley Cups than anyone else is Henri Richard, who won 11 with the Montreal Canadiens. Second place is Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer, with 10 each, who were both also members of the Montreal Canadiens.
As you can see, the Stanley Cup is the oldest and one of the most recognizable trophies in sports. It has been around for well over 100 years, and is one of the most impressive championship trophies on the planet.
Has your favorite NHL team ever won the Stanley Cup? Let me know in a comment below!About Kale