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Stanley Cup, the highest cup in the world: Curiosities you need to know if you are a fan of ice hockey
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Ever wondered about the history and intricacies behind a certain high-profile trophy? Wonder no more! The Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy in North America to be awarded to a professional sports team. Initially called the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, it was donated in 1892 to Canada by its then Governor General, Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley, to celebrate the new sport that was spreading across the country: ice hockey. In this article, we’re going to check out the origins of the trophy, its traditions, and how over the years it has managed to achieve the importance it has today!

Where did it come from?

The first ice hockey game in history was played in Montreal, March 3, 1875. Introduced to the world by student James Creighton, who grew up playing on Canada’s frozen lakes and was a member of his university’s rugby team, field hockey mixes together features of field hockey and rugby into a single sport.

The original rules of play described by Creighton are pretty simple, too! Players can only attack by making forward passes while handling the field hockey stick (which you can’t raise above your shoulders), while obstruction and tackling are allowed for defence. Famous for the fights that regularly occur on the field, field hockey has been a pretty aggressive sport from its earliest days: in fact, the first match was broken up at 2-1 by the regular members of the rink rented to host the event, who were present in the audience, and ended in a physical confrontation with the players. What a start!

Following this first match, ice hockey immediately began to spread to the eastern part of Canada, and then spread across the nation, beginning in 1883, when the then Governor General of Canada, Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley, attended the exhibition match organized during the Montreal Winter Carnival and was fascinated. Promoted by Lord Stanley, the new sport spread first among young middle-class people in universities and then increasingly attracted the attention of the rest of the population. We’re very glad it did!

In 1892, before leaving the country to return to England, Lord Stanley gave Canada a cup for which all Canadian amateur hockey teams could compete. Initially called the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, a few years later, the press renamed the cup to the Stanley Cup, and it became famous everywhere, to the point of creating real NHL Stanley Cup odds and lines, with people betting from every corner of the planet. Thanks, Lord Stanley!

The transition from amateur to professional competition occurred in 1910 with the founding of the National Hockey Association (NHA), which determined Canada’s top league, later replaced in 1917 by the National Hockey League (NHL), when it was decided to establish a league that included not only Canadian teams but also U.S. teams. The Montreal Canadiens are the franchise to have won the Stanley Cup the most times, with an impressive 24 successes (1 NHA and 23 NHL), followed by compatriots Toronto Maple Leafs (13 NHL).

There’s even been talk of establishing another league, although what this would look like remains to be seen!

Stanley Cup, Presentation Cup and Permanent Cup

Unlike most other sports, it is not customary in ice hockey to recreate a copy of the trophy annually. In fact, there are only three “versions” of the Stanley Cup: the original cup, the Presentation Cup, and the Permanent Cup. To preserve the cup, and avoid damage caused by time, the original version is kept in a vault in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

The Presentation Cup is the cup that is given annually to the winning team. Finally, the Permanent Cup is the identical copy of the Presentation Cup, displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame if the latter is not available.

Superstitions and traditions

Over the years, many superstitions and traditions have been associated with the cup. One of the most fascinating and unique traditions involves memorializing the champions by engraving on the Stanley Cup the name of the winning team, accompanied by the names of the coach, coaching staff, management, and selected players from the winning roster.

To enable the passing down of this custom, a neck and five rings were added to the original cup – 18.50 centimetres high – determining the trophy’s record height: 89.54 centimetres. Each ring can accommodate 13 teams. For this reason, every 13 years – when the bottom ring is totally etched – the first top ring is removed and all others are moved upward to add a new fifth ring at the bottom. The removed rings are preserved in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Pretty cool, right?

When the trophy is presented, the tradition is for all winning players – starting with the captain – to walk around the rink with the cup in their hands to show it to the public. During the summer break, the winning team is given 100 days to allow athletes and staff members to individually spend a day in possession of the cup, an exceptional event that distinguishes the National Hockey League from all other sports competitions – and one the players and fans like us just love!

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