CHARLOTTE, NC, May 31, 2017 – The annual tournament to determine who will own Lord Stanley’s Cup for another year is underway, but this time there’s a twist. For the first time in its history, the NHL championship does not have a Canadian team in the finals.
With that thought in mind, it seems there should be some other trivial oddities in the fast-paced world of ice hockey.
The Stanley Cup was a donation to the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association by Frederick A. Stanley (Lord Stanley of Preston) who was Governor-General of Canada in the late 19th century.
In November of 1917, the league became the NHL and for the next 8 years they played against the PCHL to decide the championship. In 1923 and 1924 the Western Canada Hockey League also competed to make it a three-way competition.
When the PCHL folded in 1926, the NHL began playing for the cup and has done so ever since.
The first NHL games were played in December 1917 with the Montreal Wanderers beating the Toronto Arena, 10-9 and the Montreal Canadiens beating the Ottawa Senators, 7-4.
During the 1944-45 season, Maurice Richard became the first player to score 50 goals in a season. It took much longer for a goaltender to score, however, when Billy Smith accomplished the feat in 1979. Since that time, only 10 other goalies have ever scored, the last time being 2006.
In the early days, players didn’t wear helmets and goalies were bare-faced. In fact, it was a badge of honor for a player’s picture to appear in the program with as many teeth missing as possible.
The first goaltender to wear a mask was Clint Benedict who tried it after a shot by Howie Mornez knocked him out in 1927. The leather contraption did not allow a goalie to see low shots so the experiment was abandoned until 1959 when Jacques Plante began using homemade protection during practice.
When Andy Bathgate hit Plante in the head with a shot during a game, the mask immediately became part of the equipment during actual competition.
Pulling the goalie late in the game is a common strategy today by giving a team an extra skater when the score is close. The first team to use the idea was the New York Rangers in 1940 and it has been a common desperation tactic ever since.
The year 1992 was especially noteworthy when Manon Rheaume made sports history by being the first woman to play in one of the four major professional sports leagues. Rheaume was the goaltender for Tampa Bay in a preseason game against the St. Louis Blues.
Several sports, including soccer, cricket, and hockey, have something called a “hat trick” if a player gets three goals in a game. It was originally thought that a Toronto haberdasher in the 1940s gave hockey players free hats if they accomplished the feat.
More likely, the term refers back to 1858 when a cricket player in England took three wickets in consecutive balls. The team gave him a hat for his amazing achievement.
A “natural hat trick” occurs when a player scores three straight times with no other scores in between.
Rather than creating a new Cup each year, the Stanley Cup remains constant with the names of the champion players, the coaches, management, and staff added. The first engraving went to the Montreal Wanderers for the 1906-07 season, but as more and more teams won the trophy, each new winning roster was added as a separate ring below the original Cup. Before long the prize took on the nickname of the “Stovepipe Cup” because of its length, so the shape was changed to the version we see today with tiered rings that are removable.
According to NHL rules, no more than 52 names are allowed to be on the cup in any given year.
Perhaps most unique about the Stanley Cup over other team trophies is that each player whose name appears on the prize is allowed to keep it for one day during the year until a new champion is crowned. Over the decades there have been some rather dubious uses for the Stanley Cup so today it is always accompanied by at least one member of the Hockey Hall of Fame known as “Keeper of the Cup.”
Philip Richard is currently the watchdog and has been since 1991. To keep fans up to date, Richard maintains a Twitter account to let them know its current whereabouts.
The Stanley Cup was stolen once by a distraught Montreal fan while it was on display at Chicago Stadium where the champion Blackhawks played. Ken Kilander attempted to walk out of the arena with it saying when he was apprehended, “I want to take it back where it belongs, to Montreal.”
And that’s a brief history of one of the most coveted trophies in sports. By the way, the first American ever to play in the NHL was Billy Burch who was born in 1900.
This year the Cup belongs to either the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Nashville Predators.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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