Stanley Cup 101

Friday, 18.05.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
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Stanley Cup 101
WHEREFROM ART THOU, STANLEY?

The Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy competed for by professional athletes in North America. It was donated by Frederick Arthur, Lord Stanley of Preston and son of the Earl of Derby, in 1893. Lord Stanley purchased the trophy for 10 guineas ($48 CDN at that time) for presentation to the amateur hockey champions of Canada.

Since 1906, when Canadian teams began to pay their players openly, the Stanley Cup has been the symbol of professional hockey supremacy. It has been competed for only by NHL teams since 1926-27 and has been under the exclusive control of the NHL since 1947.

STANLEY VISITS VANCOUVER

Speaking of paying players "openly" brings us to the Stanley Cup's only year of residency in Vancouver-1915. Patriarch Frank Patrick of that fabled hockey family decided he'd literally buy his way to a Cup championship. Dangling dollars before their starry eyes, Patrick lured hockey's best players to the west coast by simply outspending everyone else. Why, he even called the team "The Millionaires".

Patrick wooed Cyclone Taylor, hockey's biggest star, from Ontario, then surrounded him with the likes of Frank Nighbor, Barney Stanley, Mickey McKay, Si Griffis and goalie Hughie Lehman. This powerhouse squad easily captured the Pacific Coast League championship and eventually met the eastern finalists, the Ottawa Senators, on Vancouver's home turf, naturally. While the Sens chugged across Canada by train, Patrick's Millionaires honed their considerable skills down in Portland, salivating at the thought of the slaughter ahead.

When the Senators finally arrived, they were lodged at the posh Elysium Hotel and were all given free streetcar passes by B.C. Electric! The well-rested Millionaires ripped the poor Sens to pieces, winning three straight games and outscoring their exhausted foes by a combined 26-8 score.

As late and great Vancouver scribe Denny Boyd would write: "The Vancouver players collected their $300 bonus cheques and lived like the hockey kings that they were. The Ottawa players tore up their streetcar passes and went home."

STANLEY'S EARLY INDIGNITIES

Most hockey observers are aware that players from each Cup-winning team get to take the trophy and show it off to friends and neighbours in their hometowns each summer. Former Canuck and recently-retired Red Wing Igor Larionov even got to take it to his home in Russia in the summer of 2002.

A similar process was practiced in Stanley's early days, too, but the practice was much less organized. (It was actually downright loosey-goosey). Winners in the early 1900's would keep the Cup until the following season when they had to surrender it for re-competition. After a summer (or even a week) of passing it around, the Cup was often hard to find. One night, a group of winning revelers sipped a little too much bubbly from it and left in the back seat of a taxi in Montreal! (At least they didn't drink and drive!). On another occasion, it was simply left on the corner of a street. On yet another, the Cup was misplaced all summer, only to be later found in one of the players' mothers flower gardens where she had filled it with live pansies and petunias.

Its "deepest" indignity, however, was suffered in the nation's capital when one of the Ottawa players accidentally dropped it into the Rideau Canal. Fortunately it was quickly recovered before any lasting damage was done.