This Week in History
Hockey’s Holy Grail
For the week of Monday, February 17, 2003
On March 15, 1893, the first Stanley Cup was awarded to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association. A year earlier, Governor-General Lord Stanley had donated a challenge cup to reward the top hockey team in the Dominion of Canada. Although christened the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, from the outset the trophy was soon known as the Stanley Cup.
Lord Stanley’s original trophy was a simple silver bowl purchased in British guineas for an amount of less than $50. In the earlier years of the championship, the Cup was routinely misplaced, abused, or forgotten by the rambunctious winning team. It has been used as a champagne glass and a flower pot, has been kicked into Ottawa’s Rideau Canal and left on the side of a road. In 1969, the worn original was retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame and replaced by the modern, ringed Cup. Each of the Cup’s five rings honours 13 years of winning teams. Soon, a sixth ring will be added.
The Stanley Cup championship has always drawn large and enthusiastic crowds. The first game drew the largest audience for a sporting event up to that point in Canadian history. Ironically, Lord Stanley returned to England without having seen a championship game or witnessing the impact he left on Canadian culture. The Stanley Cup popularized the game of hockey across Canada and created a legion of devoted hockey fans. The sport has since been galvanized with such moments as the 1972 Summit Series victory in Russia and various Olympic gold wins.
The Stanley Cup championship has produced a number of sports heroes within Canada. Two such men, Howie Morenz and Lionel Pretoria “Big Train” Conacher, are designated persons of historic significance. The Montréal Forum, former home to the Montréal Canadiens, is a National Historic Site.
Additional information on the Montréal Forum is available in the archives of This Week in History: Hockey at the Forum.
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