Enter Brent Rathgeber, Conservative MP for Edmonton-St. Albert and general stud. Writing on his blog, Rathgeber advocates a return of Lord Stanley’s Cup to its native Canada. From the post:
The Stanley Cup does not belong to the NHL; it belongs to Canada. This is both historically and legally accurate. The Cup was donated in 1892 by the Governor General of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston, as the “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup”. It was to be awarded annually to the top ranking amateur ice hockey club in Canada . . .
Despite the fact that the National Hockey League does not own the cup, it has been the de facto trophy of the NHL Championship since 1926 and the trophy du jour of the NHL since 1947. The NHL only uses the cup by agreement with the two trustees of the cup; however, it does not own the cup . . .
So if the 2012-2013 NHL Season is unsalvageable, I propose that the trustees exercise that very discretion and award the Stanley Cup to the best amateur or beer league or women’s or sledge hockey team in Canada. That would allow the trustees to fulfill their obligation to exercise their duties in the best interests of the original purpose of the trust, which was to promote amateur hockey in Canada.
So the MP is suggesting that the Stanley Cup, once awarded to the finest team in the National Hockey League, be awarded to the best team of schmoes in Canada. This seems like a ridiculous idea – especially since the Cup has been awarded to an American club for the last 19 years – but less so after examining the Cup’s history.
Lord Stanley of Preston, Governor General of Canada, fell in love with the game of hockey shortly after watching the Montreal Hockey Club take on the Montreal Victorias at the 1889 Montreal Winter Carnival. Soon, his family became obsessed with the game too. His two sons, Arthur and Algernon, founded a new team called the Ottawa Rideau Hall Rebels. It was his sons who persuaded Lord Stanley to create “an outward and visible sign of the hockey championship.” So in 1893, Lord Stanley donated a decorative punch bowl crafted by London silversmith G. R. Collis and Company, worth roughly $1,259 present-day USD. “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup” was engraved on one side, “From Stanley of Preston” on the other.
Lord Stanley never presented his Cup and never watched a Stanley Cup game. However, he did intend for his punch bowl to be awarded to the top amateur team in Canada. The NHL only emerged as the Cup’s sole league in 1926 after all other leagues folded. In 1947, the NHL entered an agreement with the Cup’s trustees to gain official control of the trophy. In the 1970s, the World Hockey Association – which brought us the Whalers, the Jets, the Nordiques, and the Oilers – sought to compete for the Cup, a request that was flatly denied by the trustees.
During the 2004-05 lockout, a lawsuit filed by an Ottawa beer league called the “Wednesday Nighters” sought to return the Stanley Cup to its roots. The lawsuit dragged on into 2006, even after NHL hockey had resumed. But the out-of-court settlement reached spoke volumes. From MacLeans:
Nothing therein precludes the Trustees from exercising their power to award the Stanley Cup to a non-NHL team in any year in which the NHL fails to organize a competition to determine a Stanley Cup winner.
Feasibly, Lord Stanley’s Cup could be awarded to a beer league champion. The last amateur team to capture it was the 1924-25 Victoria Cougars. However, the Cup’s trustees, Brian O’Neill and Ian (Scotty) Morrison, have gone on record numerous times stating that the Stanley Cup is indeed an NHL trophy, and award would diminish its prestige.
Awarding the Cup to a non-NHL team would send a powerful message to the embattled league to get its act together. However, the Cup’s trustees, firmly in the pocket of the National Hockey League, will never let this happen. So for now, my Boston University coed intramural floor hockey team Book Hockey will just have to keep dreaming.