Esso Hockey since 1936Legends Of Hockey
Esso Hockey since 1936
Stanley, Lord (of Preston)

Stanley, Lord (of Preston)

The name of Frederick Arthur Stanley, Lord Stanley of Preston, Earl of Derby, has attached itself to the oldest team trophy in North American sports competition. Since it was first awarded in 1893, the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup has become an important athletic and cultural symbol in Canada--and by now the whole world--universally known as the Stanley Cup.

The future Lord Stanley was born in London, England, in 1841. He was appointed Governor General of Canada by Queen Victoria in 1888, assumed office on June 11 of that year and served until 1893.

The first winter after his posting, Lord Stanley was invited to attend the Montreal Winter Carnival, where an ice hockey match was one of the featured attractions. This first competition that Lord Stanley witnessed turned out to be a thrilling 2-1 win by the Montreal Victorias over their crosstown rivals, the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association. The Gazette reported that "Lord Stanley expressed his great delight with the game of hockey and the expertise of the players." Not much later, three of his sons (Arthur, Edward and Victor) played on the Ottawa Rideau Rebels squad that toured Ontario in 1889 in a successful bid to promote the game's fortunes.

Lord Stanley came to the conclusion that the fine sport of ice hockey needed a symbol for which teams from all over Canada could compete. The idea was raised on the Governor General's behalf by Lord Kilcoursie at a dinner for the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association on March 18, 1892. Lord Stanley was quoted in a letter he asked Kilcoursie to read:

"I have for some time been thinking that it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion of Canada. There does not appear to be any such outward sign of a championship at present, and considering the general interest which 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 team."

After much applause, the suggestion was heartily endorsed.

A short time later, Lord Stanley purchased a silver cup 7" high and 11" wide for the sum of 10 guineas (approximately $50). He immediately appointed Ottawa Sheriff John Sweetland and Philip D. Ross as trustees who would administer all matters pertaining to any competition for the prize. Lord Stanley also stipulated that the Cup would remain a challenge trophy that would never become the property of any winning team regardless of how many times they won or successfully defended against a challenger.

In time, the whole Stanley family became hockey fanatics, with a number of sons and two daughters involved with the game. It was widely reported that on at least one occasion, one of the daughters, Lady Isabel Stanley, donned the blades for a Government House squad that won a game against the Rideau ladies' hockey team.

When the MAAA finished at the top of the 1893 Amateur Hockey Association of Canada standings, they were declared the first-ever winners of the Stanley Cup. During the first few years of its existence, there were only amateur clubs to compete for the Cup, but this was to change in 1910 when professional teams from the National Hockey Association began to take part in the quest for hockey's most heralded prize. With the disbanding of the Western Canada Hockey League, in 1926, the Stanley Cup became the championship trophy of the National Hockey League. Lord Stanley became a charter member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Builders category in 1945.

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