On this day in 1894, the first championship series for Lord Stanley’s Cup is played in Montreal, Canada. The Stanley Cup has since become one of the most cherished and recognized trophies in sport.
The Stanley Cup was the creation of Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, lord of Preston and the 16th earl of Derby. Stanley was of noble birth, the son of a three-time prime minister of England. He served in Canada’s House of Commons from 1865 until he was named governor general of Canada in 1888. Stanley became an ice hockey fan after watching an 1889 game at the Montreal Winter Carnival. Stanley’s family, sons and daughters alike, also became enraptured with the game that had taken Montreal’s sporting public by storm since its introduction in 1875. In honor of the new sport, Lord Stanley then donated a lavish trophy to the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. The trophy, originally called the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, was first presented in 1893 to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) team, champions of the Amateur Hockey Association. Stanley had intended for the cup to be presented to the winner of a challenge series, or tournament, so in 1894 it was given to the Montreal AAA team upon their defeat of the Ottawa Generals in the championship round of a tournament specifically created to award the Cup as Lord Stanley had intended.
Since 1926, the Stanley Cup has been awarded solely by the National Hockey League every year except 2005, when the NHL was on strike. The original trophy that Lord Stanley donated was retired in 1962. Since then, only one trophy has served in its place, making the Stanley Cup the only trophy in major sports that is not reproduced each year. When a team wins the Cup, they are allowed to hold on to the trophy for one year, and the name of every player, coach and front-office employee is inscribed onto it. (In 1954, Detroit Red Wings owner Marguerite Norris, a former goaltender, became the first woman to have her name engraved on the cup.) Each player and front-office employee of the champion team is given 24 hours with the Cup, which they can take anywhere, along with the its full-time escorts, provided by the Hockey Hall of Fame. Since 1895, when the Winnipeg Victorias began the tradition of drinking from the Cup, people have filled it with everything from beer to bath water as they celebrate with friends, family and the public. In its travels, the Stanley Cup has been thrown into swimming pools, taken fishing, played host to a baby’s christening and been drunk from across Canada, the United States and Europe.