The Stanley Cup is the trophy awarded to the winning team of the National Hockey League's end-of-season playoffs. Hockey fans are known to proudly call it the hardest trophy to win in professional sports. While that claim is difficult to prove scientifically, given that the winning team generally has to play at least 98 hockey games (82 regular season and a minimum of 16 post-season games, assuming a full post-season sweep - which is not only highly unlikely but also unprecedented), it's certainly not an easy trophy to win.
The Cup itself is named for Lord Frederick Stanley (later the 16th Earl of Derby), the Governor-General of Canada who was instrumental in organizing Canadian hockey and donated the original Cup in 1892. Originally a silver punch bowl made in Sheffield and purchased for ten guineas (on the order of $1200-$1300 in today's dollars), the trophy has been through a lot of incredible stories, especially for a trophy.note This is in no large part due to the unofficial tradition of each member of the winning team getting a day to spend with the trophy (most will simply take it to their hometown for photo-ops at local schools). It's shared a bed with countless players, been set on fire, gone clubbing with Mark Messier, been used to baptize infants, attended pool parties with the winning team (the trophy, it turns out, does not float), marched in a gay pride parade, been driven around at 200mph by Mario Andretti on the eve of the Indy 500, and been lost on the side of the road. It was also attacked by Taliban grenades in 2007 while visiting Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. The damage it's sustained is fairly significant; multiple dings and dents from being kicked into a frozen river, bar-hopping with players, and incidents players are presumably too embarrassed to discuss with the press.
Of note is, unlike other major sports trophies where a single trophy is given to the winning team permanently to flaunt around and display (good examples are the Lombardi Trophy of the Super Bowl and the Larry O'Brien Trophy of the NBA), there is only one Stanley Cup. Okay, technically there's three of them (see below), but the authenticated trophy is one-of-a-kind, passed down from champion to champion of each season (and gets bigger in the process, at least until 1991). While the Cup usually remains at the Hockey Hall of Fame unless it is being used for promotional purposes, it is handed to the winners at the deciding game.
Which, of course, leads to the question, "If there is only one single trophy, what happens when they run out of space on the Cup to engrave names?" Well, since 1991, when the size of the Cup was finally capped, each time the Cup runs out of space (once each 13 years or so), the top ring is removed, the ones underneath are moved up, and a new ring is added to the bottom. The removed ring is then stored in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The NHL takes the immortality of its winners very seriously.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the current Stanley Cup champions, winning it in 2020 for the second time in franchise history. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic delaying playoffs until August, the cup was not won until September, the latest in the trophy's history.
- The Montreal Canadiens have won the trophy 24 times, more than any other team. They haven't won it since 1993, a team record. Neither has any other Canadian team, much to pretty much the entire country's chagrin (though there's nothing remotely approaching solidarity among Canadian hockey fans; they only want a Canadian team to win as long as it's their team).
- Some fans call it the Curse of Marty McSorley.note Others say it's the Curse of Saint Patrick. note
- An interesting thing to note is that the curse seems to be reversed when it comes to the Olympic Games note , in which Canada has won Olympic gold in 2002 and 2010, while the USA has not won gold since 1980. Especially considering that when Canada won both those gold medals, both finals were against the USA. (Canada would subsequently defend the gold medal in 2014, the first time a men's hockey team has done so since the Soviets in 1988 note - the USA finished fourth, losing the bronze medal game to Finland.)
- The other five "Original Six" franchises (the six oldest franchises in continuous operation, all dating back to at least 1926; from 1942-67, they were the only six franchises in the National Hockey League) have all had long dry spells, most of them dating to before the 1967 expansion.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs have gone since 1967 without winning the trophy, much to the chagrin of their passionate fanbase.
- The Chicago Blackhawks ended a 49-year dry spell (begun 1961) in 2010, and went on to win again in 2013 and 2015.
- The New York Rangers ended a 54-year wait (begun 1940) in 1994 with a dramatic Game 7 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
- The Detroit Red Wings ended a 42-year wait (begun 1955) in 1997 by sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers. They followed up by sweeping the Washington Capitals in 1998 and kept up the success for 25 years, though the team ended their playoff streak in 2017 and have fallen off hard in recent years.
- The Boston Bruins ended a 39-year wait (begun 1972) in 2011 by beating the Vancouver Canucks in seven games. Prior to this, they had had a 29-year dry spell between 1941 and 1970, including the entire "Original Six" era from 1942-67.
- The Montreal Canadiens have won the cup the most times, with 24. Their first was in 1916 and their most recent was in 1993. The Maple Leafs have won the second most with 13 and the Detroit Red Wings are third with 11. Their totals are inflated by their collective dominance of the Original Six era; between 1942 and 1967, the Canadiens won the Cup ten times, the Maple Leafs also won ten times, and the Red Wings won five times.note
- Every possible Original Six matchup except for one (Blackhawks/Rangers) has been played as a Stanley Cup Final. The second-to-last unplayed matchup was crossed off the list in 2013 when the Blackhawks defeated the Bruins to win the Cup. Almost all of the Original Six matchups are no longer possible because the Final is always played East vs. West, and five of the Original Sixnote are located in the East.note
- The Detroit Red Wings are the most storied American team in the NHL as they have won the Stanley Cup 11 times, more than any other American team. Their most recent championship was in 2008.
- The Philadelphia Flyers were the first expansion teamnote to win the Stanley Cup, doing so in 1974.
- The Flyers would win again in 1975, making them the first expansion team to win two Cups and win Cups back-to-back.
- The first American team to win the Cup wasn't even an NHL team - it was the short-lived Seattle Metropolitans, who won it in 1917, their second season of operation. They would fold seven years later.
- Eleven of the NHL's 31 teams have never won the trophy, and of those eleven, four have never made it to the Finals (Winnipeg/Phoenix/Arizona, Atlanta/Winnipeg, Minnesota, and Columbus. note )
- Of all the teams in the NHL, the St. Louis Blues went the longest without winning their first Cup. Founded in 1967, they were tied with the Maple Leafs for the longest Cup drought until they won in 2019, a 52-year (and 51-complete-season) span.
- It wouldn't take long to match that record, though: The Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres are also Cupless and joined in 1970, only three years after the Blues.note
- Five teams have won the Stanley Cup after moving to new cities; the Calgary Flames (formerly the Atlanta Flames), the Colorado Avalanche (formerly the Quebec Nordiques), the New Jersey Devils (see below), the Dallas Stars (formerly the Minnesota North Stars), and the Carolina Hurricanes (formerly the Hartford Whalers).
- The New Jersey Devils are the only team to have won the Stanley Cup after moving to new cities TWICE (originally the Kansas City Scouts, then the Colorado Rockies).
- The defunct Montreal Maroons won the Cup twice, in 1926 and 1935, then suspended operations in 1938 only to outright cancel the franchise in 1947. Since then, absolutely no Cup winner has ever relocated or gone under.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning (2004 and 2020) are the southernmost team to win the Cup. Other teams from warm cities also won: Dallas Stars (1999), Carolina Hurricanes (2006), Anaheim Ducks (2007)note and Los Angeles Kings (2012 - ending 45 years of waiting the title since the team's inception - and 2014).
- The Chicago Blackhawks were the first team to win the Cup three times since the institution of the league's salary cap (2010, 2013, 2015). The Pittsburgh Penguins matched the feat in 2017 (with their prior wins in 2016 and 2009).
- Speaking of the Penguins, they were the first to win the Cup twice in a row in the salary cap era.
- There are three actual Cups: the original bowl (retired in 1969 since it was getting worn out), the authenticated cup that is actually presented at the games and updated accordingly, and a replica stand-in that is installed at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto when the authenticated Cup is out of town and up to no good. The original bowl is, of course, on permanent display in the Hall.
- The names of the winning team are engraved onto the Cup's bands. Once it is filled, the top band of the Cup is removed and a new one is replaced at the bottom, preventing it from growing any longer. As seen below, it's already enormous.
- As it currently stands, the trophy is 90 cm (35 inches) tall and weighs over 15 kilograms (34 pounds). That's more than twice as tall and three times as heavy as The World Cup.
- And there was a time when it was bigger than that. Nowadays, each band can store 13 winning clubs' names. Decades ago, though, each band stored one per, and bands were not removed in a timely manner. The Cup became taller and taller till it resembled a stovepipe, hence the nickname "Stovepipe Cup". A 1948 redesign proved insufficient for fixing these problems, so it was redesigned again in 1957; that design is in use today - five bands, 13 clubs per band and remove the topmost one once they're all full - to keep the Cup from growing out of control ever again. It also adds a certain sentimentality to the periodic removal of the top band, as iconic names can disappear from the Cup altogether, as happened in 2018 after the Capitals won and started a new band; in the process, names like Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, and Maurice Richard were permanently removed from the Cup.
- Dating all the way back to when the Cup was first implemented, teams sometimes engraved their names directly onto the Cup itself, though usually omitting players' names and just describing the series in which the team won. These engravings were replicated on the presentation Cup that is in use today; if you look closely, you can even see names in the bowl itself. These belong to the March 1907 Montreal Wanderers, though not all of the players involved are even listed (five are missing).
- There are typos in the engravings, only a handful of which have been corrected. Jacques Plante's engraved name is misspelled five times, such as "Jac", "Jacq", and "Jaques". Plante, if you're not familiar with NHL stars of the 1950s, is considered one of the best goalies ever.
- Also, when the Boston Bruins won the 1972 Cup, it was spelled "Bqstqn". When the New York Islanders won the cup in 1981, it was spelled "Ilanders".
- Forward Gaye Stewart's name was misspelled as Gave Stewart when the Maple Leafs won the Cup in 1947.
- When the Detroit Red Wings won the 1954 Cup, Coach Tommy N. Ivan, center Alex Delvecchio, and winger Tony Leswick's last names were misspelled as Nivan, Belvecchio, and Leswich.
- Montreal Canadiens forward Bob Gainey's last name was misspelled Gainy when the Habs won the Cup in 1976.
- Glenn Hall's name was misspelled as "Glin" in 195152.
- Pat McReavy's name is misspelled "McCeavy" as a member of the 1941 Boston Bruins on the second cup created during the 195758 season. His name was often misspelled as "McCreavy" on team pictures of the Boston Bruins. When the Replica Cup was created in 199293, the misspelling was not corrected.
- Justin Williams, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner of the 2014 Los Angeles Kings, was spelled "JUSTIN WILLIVIS."
- Frank J. Selke won the cup as Assistant Manager for the Maple Leafs in 1945. He is credited as "F.J. Selke (Ass Man)". The team was later misspelled "Maple Leaes" when it won the 1963 Cup, actually one of the last times the Leafs won the trophy.
- Adam Deadmarsh's last name was misspelled Deadmarch at first. It later became the first error to be corrected, as were the misspellings of Detroit Red Wings goalie Manny Legace ("Lagace"), Carolina Hurricanes forward Eric Staal ("Staaal"), and Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg ("Vertseeg")
- One name on the Cup is crossed out. Oilers owner Peter Pocklington had his father's name placed on the Cup as well as his own when the Oilers won in 1984. The NHL, not amused (there's little enough space on the cup as it is), had the name covered with "XXXX XXXXXXXXX". Pocklington insisted that it was an error on the engraver's part, mistaking a list of people to receive miniature replica Cups with the list of team names. Incidentally, this is the main visible difference between the presentation Cup and the Hall of Fame's replica Cup: the replica simply leaves the spot where Basil Pocklington's name was engraved blank, instead of replicating the engraving and then X-ing over it.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: It is the crown for any player who gets the chance of lifting it.
- Ancient Keeper: Since 1988 The Hockey Hall of Fame has employed a man by the name of Phil Pritchard with the official title of "Keeper of The Cup". Phil's, and two assistant keepers', entire job is dedicated to nothing but the Cup. Phil's duties include traveling everywhere the Cup is taken to prevent it from getting lost...again, and tracking it down in the event that it does (even if that involves a snowy subzero sled ride through Newfoundland or hiding in bushes with players trying to surprise their families), thoroughly cleaning the Cup (people have used the Cup as a bathroom and eaten out of it, in that order, on the same day), caring for the retired and replica Cups and removed rings of the Cup that remain in the Hall of Fame, protecting the dignity of the Cup (I.E. ensuring there are no photos when players take the Cup to less than reputable places), and making on the spot repairs whenever players (and in one or two accidents the keepers themselves) happen to dent, scratch, crush, or damage the Cup in anyway.
- And the Adventure Continues: It's the globe-trotting trophy. It's been almost everywhere, and it's going back out on another round of adventures for the next championship team.
- In 1969, NHL president Clarence Campbell predicted that the Cup would actually be awarded in Moscow, implying dreams of a worldwide NHL. So far, the Cup remains confined to the US and Canada.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: When the cup is being toured around by the winning team, expect this reaction from the locals as they drop everything to have a glimpse of the cup. Best evidenced by one player taking it to a strip club, with it getting more attention than the dancers.
- Badass Beard: In the playoffs the players usually grow a playoff beard which means they don't shave until they get eliminated or win the Cup, thus regularly a badass beard can be beheld on the Cup-winning team.
- Canada, Eh?: If there's a Canadian team in the finals, it's the most important thing in the country, even to people who don't watch hockey.
- And when the finals are between two Canadian teams (therefore guaranteeing that a Canadian team will win the cup), expect the entire country to grind to a halt.note
- Distracted by the Sexy: A rare inversion, during the times the Stanley Cup has been taken to strip clubs, it has gotten more attention than the strippers themselves. But then again some hockey fans do find the Stanley Cup pretty sexy
- Downer Ending: For every team that loses in The Finals.
- The 1919 Finals, which ended up being canceled when players on both teams contracted The Spanish Flu (which would end up taking the life of Canadiens player Joe Hall). The spot on the Cup for this final simply says 'Series Not Completed'. note
- Grail in the Garbage: It was used as a flower pot once. The Montreal Wanderers (the 1906 champions) had their photo taken at a studio—and forgot the trophy at the studio. Weeks later, officials learned that the photographer's mother was using it to plant geraniums.
- He Who Must Not Be Touched: NHL players, without a single exception, will refrain from even touching the Cup until they win it. Their first actual contact will be when they hoist it over their heads after the last game of the Cup finals.
- Even the Keepers of the Cup, whose sole job is to care for it, refrain from touching the Cup directly without wearing white velvet gloves because they have not won it themselves...and also because they are responsible for cleaning any finger prints off it after anyone touches it.
- This applies even more to the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Clarence Campbell Bowl, the trophies awarded for the Eastern and Western Conference champions. Often, the conference champions will never touch these trophies even after they are presented them to show that The Cup is the one they want. If a team wins it on home ice, expect the fans to voice the same opinion during the presentation with "WE WANT THE CUP!!!" Of course, this doesn't work often; the first team to deliberately avoid touching their conference trophy was the Philadelphia Flyers in 1997, who were swept by the Detroit Red Wings (who did touch theirs). In fact, from 1997 through 2017, there have been nine Finals where only one of the teams touched their respective conference trophy, and the touching team is 6-3.
- Hilarity Ensues: It's tradition that each player of the winning team gets to spend some time with the Cup. While some of them do classy things like bringing it to their home town and such, other players take it out for a night of partying or other shenanigans, occasionally losing the damn thing. There's a reason the description above says the replica is for when the real cup is "up to no good."
- Iconic Item: Arguably the most recognizable trophy in professional sports.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Final series in sports tend to bring out the hero in injured players, but Bob Baun may be the Ur-example. In 1964, he played half of Game Six, and all of Game Seven, of the Stanley Cup final on a broken ankle. I bet it didn't hurt a bit as he skated around holding the Cup over his head.
- While not a major injury, the laceration to the face of the Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw stands out amongst the most memorable sights of the 2013 finals. After initially getting stitched up and returning to the ice, the ref had to keep sending him back to the bench repeatedly because it just wouldn't stop bleeding. He skated his lap with the cup with the cut still dripping and nobody could have cared less. Over the summer he would raise almost $20,000 for charity by auctioning off his stitches.
- Mundane Utility: More than once the Cup has been used as a bowl for various foods and/or snacks. Including dog food.
- To say nothing of its regular use as a vessel for the victorious team's celebratory champagne.
- Or its occasional use as a urinal for team members.
- After the New York Rangers won the Cup in 1940 and paid off the Madison Square Garden mortgage shortly thereafter, the team owners burned the mortgage papers within the Cup. Whether this was before or after the whole team is known to have urinated in it is unknown, but many later placed either, if not both, of these desecrations as the cause of the "Curse of 1940", in which the Rangers would not win the Cup again for more than 50 years.
- And after the Rangers finally broke the alleged curse in 1994, several players took it to Belmont Park, filled it with oats, and let that year's Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin eat out of it.
- At least once has a player's kid been placed in the bowl for a photo, only to have been found having used it as a potty. (Most recent incident: Detroit Red Wing Kris Draper left his newborn daughter in the bowl after winning in 2008. After a thorough cleaning, he drank out of it the same day.)
- And a few players have used the Cup as a baptismal font for their children.
- When the St. Louis Blues won in 2019, multiple players ate meals out of the Cup: Captain Alex Pietrangelo ate his grandmother's spaghetti out of it; David Perron shared breakfast with his family in it and then used it to share a poutine lunch with the public in his hometown; and St. Louis native Pat Maroon ate cereal out of it with his son, Anthony, then took it to a St. Louis bar, where everyone ate toasted raviolis out of it.
- Took a Level in Badass: The winning team. Sometimes key players.
- Victory Pose: Raising the Cup over your head and taking a victory lap around the ice with it.
Appearances in Media
- Boston Legal: The Cup (though likely a prop) appeared in an episode. Denny Crane (William Shatner) knocked it off a balcony. This was after attempting to engrave his own name into it alongside the 1970 Bruins - he claims to have loaned Bobby Orr his lucky jock strap for that Cup-winning game.
- 30 Rock: Dennis Duffy got to carry it around after becoming "The Subway Hero." It was credited As Itself.
Cerie: What's that?Dennis: It's hockey's ultimate prize, sweetheart. And me and it are teaming up to fight illiteracy.
Dennis: "...and the Ducks are mad at me for leaving the Stanley Cup on a water taxi!"
- And later:
- The Simpsons: In the episode "Viva Ned Flanders", Homer and Ned somehow get their hands on it after a blackout bender in Las Vegas.
- A couch gag has the Simpson family skating around their living room and celebrating with the Cup, along with Maggie sitting inside the bowl.
- In "The Last Temptation of Krust", Krusty drinks from the Cup going on a late night bender and then vomits. The NHL weren't amused, and sent a letter to the show... which a Fox lawyer told the show to ignore.
- Corner Gas: Used as a prop by (then) Anaheim Ducks forward Travis Moen. Takes a ride in the passenger seat of a car while Moen gets pulled over for various reasons.
- A Gretzky Has the Ball joke in Peanuts had Rerun, a new recruit to Charlie Brown's baseball team, convinced they were playing in the finals of the Stanley Cup. Snoopy also dreamed of playing for the Stanley Cup, practicing on top of his doghouse with Woodstock at one point.
- It ends up spending the night at Sherlock Holmes's brownstone on Elementary. Holmes claims he's attempting to work out whether or not it's a replica or the genuine article and eventually decides it's the latter. Detective Bell is absolutely bewildered at the fact that he's spending the night with Sherlock tossing cards into it. Earlier, Joan Watson finds it sitting in the bathtub as part of a mysterious "test" of its authenticity.
- A commercial for Anheuser-Busch's Bud Ice beer in The '90s has the Cup being successfully stolen by the brand's penguin mascot.