They say you can never go home, but that's certainly not true. It took 113 years, but at long last, the Stanley Cup returned to the site of its origin.
|The London Eye is an extraordinary manner in which to see Central London, as the Stanley Cup experienced on its return to England. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The Stanley Cup has travelled all over North America, excited fans in Russia, Siberia and Belarus, visited the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Ukraine, enjoyed visits to Switzerland, Finland and Sweden, spent time in Austria, Germany and Lichtenstein, popped into the Bahamas, celebrated the Olympic Games in Italy and jetted to Japan. Surprisingly, the Stanley Cup had never returned to England since it left that country in late-April, 1893. That is, until April 2006.
* * *
On June 11, 1888, Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley was sworn in as the sixth Governor General of Canada, appointed by England's reigning monarch, Queen Victoria. Born to an aristocratic British family, Stanley's full title was the Right Honourable Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, Baron Stanley of Preston, in the County of Lancaster, in the peerage of Great Britain, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. He later added the title of 16th Earl of Derby.
Hockey was in the very earliest stages of its development when Lord and Lady Stanley, their son Edward and daughter Isobel, observed their first game on February 4, 1889 at the Montreal Winter Carnival. It was a pivotal moment in hockey's history. It was an epiphany for the Stanley family.
Within weeks, 14-year-old Isobel participated in what is regarded as the first women's hockey game, which took place on the Rideau Hall Rink behind the Governor General's official residence in Ottawa. Edward had his brothers out on the same rink playing pick-up hockey games. Eventually, younger brother Arthur put together one of Ottawa's first teams (the Rideau Rebels) and a loosely-organized league. Under his father's patronage, he later also organized the Ontario Hockey League.
On March 18, 1892, at a banquet celebrating a successful season for the Ottawa Hockey Club, Lord Stanley's aide, Lord Kilcoursie (who also played on the Rideau Rebels with Stanley's sons), read a letter on behalf of the Governor General.
"I have for some time been thinking that it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup, which would be held from year to year by the leading hockey club in the Dominion. Considering the general interest which hockey matches now elicit, and the importance of having the game played fairly and under rules generally recognized, I am willing to give a cup which shall be held from year to year by the winning club."
To exuberant cheering, it was clear that a challenge trophy for hockey was definitely met with resounding enthusiasm.
|The Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, better known as the Stanley Cup, was purchased for Lord Stanley of Preston by Captain Charles Colville at G.R. Collis & Co., 130 Regent Street in London, England.
Captain Charles Colville, a former aide to Stanley who had since returned to England, was instructed by the Governor General to use 10 guineas (approximately $50) to purchase a suitable trophy. Colville visited G.R. Collis & Co. at 130 Regent Street, just off Piccadilly Circus, and handpicked a beautiful punchbowl. He asked that on the outside of the bowl, it should be engraved 'From Stanley of Preston' along with the Stanley family crest. On the opposite side was to read 'Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup.'
In late April 1893, the silver bowl, measuring 7.28 inches tall and 11.42 inches in diameter, was crated and shipped across the Atlantic for the Governor General. Lord Stanley was pleased and contacted John Sweetland, one of the two trustees he had appointed to oversee the trophy's activities, to fetch the trophy (which was already being called the Stanley Cup). Sheriff Sweetland did exactly that, then had the other trustee, Philip D. Ross, arrive at his house to see the championship bowl for the first time.
Lord Stanley insisted that the Cup remain a challenge trophy, presented for the amateur championship of Canada, and never become the property of any one team. The first Stanley Cup winner was the Montreal Hockey Club, a member club of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association, in 1893. In 1910, after having being awarded to both amateur and professional teams, the Stanley Cup was awarded exclusively to professional teams. From the National Hockey League's formation in 1917 until 1926, the magnificent trophy was awarded to the winner of a playoff between the NHL and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. When the PCHA dissolved in 1927, the Stanley Cup has since presented exclusively to NHL playoff champions.
On the death of his brother Edward, the 15th Earl of Derby, in April 1893, Lord Stanley became the 16th Earl of Derby and was required to oversee the family estates. He resigned as Governor General and on July 15, 1893, returned to England. Lord Stanley of Preston never witnessed his namesake trophy presented to a championship team.
Stanley could have no comprehension of the immense impact his gift would have. In 1945, the donation of the Stanley Cup earned its donor selection to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder of the sport one of the fourteen men inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame that initial year. Today, the original Stanley Cup donated by Lord Stanley is kept on permanent display at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
* * *
The Stanley Cup arrived at London's Heathrow Airport at 10PM on Tuesday, April 17. The British media was awaiting the legendary trophy's arrival, and reams of photos were snapped as the trophy and its case were carried through the busy terminal.
|There is no better way to tour the historic sites of London than on one of the double-decker buses.
On Wednesday the 18th, Lord Stanley's Cup was paraded through the streets of London on a double-decker bus. From the Royal Horseguard Hotel, the Stanley Cup was taken to 10 Downing Street, the residence of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Although the Prime Minister was unavailable, one excited bobby recalled with great delight his visit to Montreal in 1989 where he saw the Stanley Cup-winning game when the Calgary Flames captured hockey's most prestigious prize. Lord Stanley's father, by the way, was British Prime Minister on three different occasions.
"Mind the gap!" Next stop was the Westminster tube station. Fan reaction to randomly glimpsing the Stanley Cup was strong, and it was noted how many tourists from around the world stopped and immediately knew that the silver chalice was hockey's Stanley Cup. "Coppa Stanley," shouted an Italian visitor, while another head spun around and hollered, "Beker de Stanley!" "Must be Dutch," stated a bystander, who then laughed, "I'd love to go to Holland, wooden shoe?"
A red, double-decker bus took the Stanley Cup on a tour of several of London's most exciting sites Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace.
In the afternoon, the Stanley Cup was taken for an incredible view of Central London on the remarkable London Eye. Located between the Westminster and Waterloo bridges opposite Big Ben, The Eye is the largest ferris wheel in the world, standing a stunning 450 feet in height. Each pod comfortably holds 25 people as it makes a full 30-minute circuit.
|The Tower Bridge, spanning the Thames, provides a brilliant background to Lord Stanley's legacy.
No trip to London would be complete without ducking into a neighbourhood pub, and this trip was no different. The Stanley Cup was carried to the nearby Sherlock Holmes Public House & Restaurant at 10 Northumberland Street. While guests quaffed a pint, the Stanley Cup was placed near some of the incredible artifacts based on the legend of Sherlock Holmes, including the stuffed and mounted head of the Hound of the Baskervilles. What was the most popular item in the pub that day? It's elementary, my dear Watson.
That night, at 12:45AM, Lord Stanley's legacy made a special guest appearance on Channel 5's 'NHL Today.' Over the past several years, the National Hockey League's fan base has been growing rapidly in England due to the games broadcast by the station each Wednesday after midnight, (7 PM EST). Erik Janssen, the Canadian-born hockey and baseball producer for the immensely popular program, was the impetus behind this trip by Lord Stanley's Cup. A most gracious host, he ensured that the Stanley Cup's homecoming was a classic and classy affair.
On Thursday, April 19, the Stanley Cup was at the centre of a family reunion. At 11 that morning, in the studios of Channel 5, the Stanley Cup was introduced to Edward Richard William Stanley, the 19th and current Earl of Derby, who is the great-great grandson of Lord Frederick Stanley. It was the first time the Earl had ever seen the Stanley Cup in person, although he certainly knew of its significance.
|The 19th Earl of Derby, Edward Stanley, proudly holds aloft the trophy donated by his great-great grandfather for the club winning the amateur hockey championship of Canada. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The 19th Earl greatly enjoyed seeing and holding the trophy his great-great grandfather donated to hockey. "It was really quite exciting because, in the last year or so with all the players' disputes, the Stanley Cup has been something that has been very much in the forefront of the news, and something I've come to learn a lot more about and really learned a lot about its significance. You get wrapped up in these stories. I'm terribly proud of this long family history and proud that my great-great grandfather should have given such a wonderful thing, so I'm really excited to see it."
The Earl then lifted the Cup. A photographer cajoled him to pose for a picture with the Stanley Cup hoisted over his head. "I'd love to," he responded, "but I haven't won it and that is a privilege reserved for champions." Edward Stanley recalled being given a book about the Stanley Cup when he was 8 or 9 (he doesn't recall the title) and at that point, realized his family's connection to "the great sport of ice hockey."
A group of sports and history enthusiasts then made the short walk to Regent Street, where Captain Colville's search for a suitable trophy had begun and ended. At the time, 130 Regent Street was home to George Richmond Collis & Company. Originally Birmingham-based, G.R. Collis & Co. had leased that prime location in West End London, just off Piccadilly Circus between Mayfair to the west and Soho to the east. Regent Street was named to honour the Prince Regent, later to become King George IV, and has been a centre of commercial activity in London.
Captain Colville selected a silver bowl lined with a gold-gilded interior at a cost of ten guineas. According to a document prepared on July 30, 1992 by Robert C. Parks of Toronto-based Parks Johnson Fine Arts Services Inc., Lord Stanley's Cup was described as "a late Victorian electroplated silver punch bowl with a plain moulded rim above a repousse swirl-fluted and shaped band, above a plain inscription band crested and inscribed 'From Stanley of Preston' and 'Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup,' supported on a swirl-fluted pedestal base, the whole supported on an ebony column. Made in Sheffield, England and retailed by G.H.(sic) Collis, Regent Street, London, circa 1890."
|Now affixed to the outside wall of Boodles, an elegant jewellery shop located on Regent Street, is this plaque commemorating where the Stanley Cup was first purchased. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
130 Regent Street today houses a very fine jewellery store called Boodles, or as it has been known for over 200 years, Boodles & Dunthorne. With staff and customers excitedly watching through the shop's windows, and with the Stanley Cup as well as a hundred or so bystanders looking on as they spilled onto the street, the 19th Earl of Derby and Lord Mayor of Westminster Tim Joiner each tugged on a cord and watched as the draping fell, revealing the historical plaque that now earmarks that historic location:
'CITY OF WESTMINSTER:
LORD STANLEY OF PRESTON PURCHASED
THE ORIGINAL STANLEY CUP FROM A SILVERSMITH
ON THIS SITE IN 1892 FOR THE PEOPLE OF CANADA
TO COMMEMMORATE AMATEUR AND PROFESSIONAL ICE HOCKEY.
THE CUP IS NOW IN THE HOCKEY HALL OF FAME IN TORONTO.'
Warm applause followed and those attending chuckled as double-decker buses slowed down to allow camera-laden tourists to lean over the side to capture a photograph of the occasion.
It was astonishing to all the amount of hockey representation evident within the audience golf shirts, caps, t-shirts, sweaters, all emblazoned with one NHL team or another. "I saw it on the telly last night that the Cup was coming to London and I just had to see it," bubbled a fan who had come in from Leeds. "This is amazing, man!"
After photographs were taken, the Earl of Derby thanked everyone for attending and then scurried for his flight to Hong Kong, where he would be attending to horseracing business. The Stanley Cup proceeded to Piccadilly Square where more pictures were taken on the traffic island in the midst of the Square.
That evening, from 6:30 to 8:30, a private reception for the Stanley Cup was held at Canada House, the elegant Georgian building located in Trafalgar Square that houses the Canadian High Commission in London. The mandate of Canada House is to promote Canada's excellence, and there are few icons that better exemplify that mission than the Stanley Cup. Attending were many dignitaries, British hockey players of an older variety and those of a more recent vintage, media and other specially-invited guests.
And then, almost as quickly as it began, the Stanley Cup was packed away and readied to return to its 'adopted' home in Canada. The flight left Heathrow at 8:30 on the morning of Friday, April 21. After more than a century, Lord Stanley's legacy to hockey had returned home, and left a legacy of its own in its wake.
Kevin Shea is the co-author of the upcoming book 'LORD STANLEY-THE MAN BEHIND THE CUP,' to be published by Fenn Publishing in October 2006.