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The Stanley Cup Lord Stanley and Sons Stanley Cup Notebook
The Early Years Famous Incidents Playoff Formats


The Stanley Cup

It all started on March 18, 1892, at a dinner of the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association. Lord Kilcoursie, a player on the Ottawa Rebels hockey club from Government House, delivered the following message on behalf of Lord Stanley, the Earl of Preston and Governor General of Canada:
"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."

Original Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup was originally known as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup

Shortly thereafter, Lord Stanley purchased a silver cup measuring 7 ½ inches high by 11 ½ inches across for the sum of 10 guineas (approximately $50); appointed two Ottawa gentlemen, Sheriff John Sweetland and Philip D. Ross, as trustees of that cup; and set the following preliminary conditions to govern the annual competition:

The winners to return the Cup in good order when required by the trustees in order that it may be handed over to any other team which may win it.

Each winning team to have the club name and year engraved on a silver ring fitted on the Cup.

The Cup to remain a challenge competition and not the property of any one team, even if won more than once.

The trustees to maintain absolute authority in all situations or disputes over the winner of the Cup.

A substitute trustee to be named in the event that one of the existing trustees drops out.

The first winner of the Stanley Cup was the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) hockey club, champions of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada for 1893. Ironically, Lord Stanley never witnessed a championship game nor attended a presentation of his trophy, having returned to his native England in the midst of the 1893 season. Nevertheless, the quest for his trophy has become one of the world's most prestigious sporting competitions.


Lord Stanley and Sons

Lord Stanley and Sons

The pages of Stanley Cup history are liberally adorned with the names of famous pairs of brothers - the Patricks, Cooks, Bouchers, Conachers, Bentleys, Richards, Espositos, Drydens, Sutters and many more. Yet the most formidable brotherhood of them all never saw a minute of Stanley Cup action.

The Seven Stanley brothers were among the best hockey players of their time: They influenced the progress of the game both in North America and Great Britain, they brought about a Royal interest in hockey that lasted nearly 100 years, and it is their family name that is still proudly borne by hockey's trophy of trophies, the Stanley Cup, one of the most famous trophies in sports.

They could skate, but knew little or nothing about hockey when they sailed for Canada with their parents in 1888. Lord Stanley of Preston, later to become the 16th Lord Derby (yes, the name given to Britain Blue Riband of the Turk and subsequently adopted in Kentucky and all ponts of North, South, East and West) had been appointed Governor General of Canada.

Arthur, a third son, a born leader, was 19 at the time. A keen all-around sportsman like his brothers, he soon discovered ice hockey, and his brothers needed no encouragement to join him in taking up the game. Along with some new-found Canadian friends, they formed a couple of teams to play on a public rink. Unfortunately, the figure skaters who had the rink much to themselves in the past resented the intrusion of the hockey players, and it was soon made plain to the "rough, uncouth youths" that they could go and play on someone else's rink.

Which is just what they did. Arthur switched the action to a private rink in the grounds of Rideau Hall, the Governor-General's residence, and formed a team called the Rebels, smartly attired in red shirts and white trousers.

In 1890 he called a meeting of like-minded persons to "pursue the idea of forming an ice hockey association." It was a very well-attended meeting, and eventually led to the formation of the Ontario Hockey Association, a powerful influence in the game to this day.

Arthur didn't stop there. He and brother Algy cornered their father and persuaded him to give a cup to the "an outward and visible sign of the ice hockey championship." A Capt. Covill was entrusted with the task, a nd purchased a squat, fluted silver bowl that matches the one on top of today's trophy. Seventy years later, when thieves stole the Cup they demanded $100,000 for its return.

There is some doubt about just how enthusiastic Lord Stanley himself was about hockey. It was at a dinner for the Ottawa Athletic Association in March of 1892 that the new trophy was announced. But there is no doubt the pleas of Arthur and Algy played a major part in the the Governor-General's decision. One of the reasons given in the official announcement was "the interest that hockey matches now elicit."

The trustees were later instructed to hand the Cup over to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association as winners of the amateur hockey championship for the season that straddled New Year's Day, 1893.

By the time the Montrealers defended the Cup in 1894, the Stanley family was back in England, with Lord Stanley having left Canada to tend to family business when his brother passed away. Montreal defeated the Ottawa Capitals 3-1 before 5,000 spectators, a record at the time, and a contemporary newspaper account reported: "The referee forgot to see many things.

All the same, it was a great pity the Stanley's were not there to see their trophy begin its long and exciting history.

Nevertheless, the brothers' enthusiasm for the game was unabated, and in the heat of the winter of 1895 when, unusually for England, there were three months of snow and ice and the lake in the grounds of Buckingham Palace froze over from January to March, the Stanleys interested members of the Royal Family in a match.

Ted Kennedy greets Princess

Ted Kennedy captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, greets Princess Elizabeth at Maple Leafs Gardens, November 7, 1951. After staging an afternoon exhibition for the royal couple, Toronto and Chicago played a regularly scheduled game that evening, and the Leafs won, 1-0.

On a day in January, the great match was played: Buckingham Palace vs. Lord Stanley's team. The future Prince of Wales and, later, King George V; Lord Mildmay; Sir Francis Astley Corbett; Sir William romly Davenport; and Ronald Moncrief, most of them better-known on the Turf, made up the Palace team. Five of the Stanley brothers, plus Lord Annually, made up the opposition.

The Stanleys must have totally mesmerized the Prince. The Palace team scored one goal, while the Stanleys scored "numerous times." Presumably it was not thought diplomatic to record the exact number of times the Royal netminder fanned on shots.

The Stanleys did not confine the spread of the gospel to Royal circles. The Niagara Rink was the headquarters of the game in London at the time, shortly to be joined by the Princes and Brighton rinks. The Niagara club was the kingpin, but was no match for the rampaging Stanleys. Six of the brothers defeated Niagara easily, although Army duties restricted the ice time available to most of the brothers. Another brother, Victor, who became an admiral, could only play when on leave from the Navy.

Saddest of all, Arthur, the best player on the team, was forced to retire in 1894 after a bout with rheumatic fever.

The sport on both sides of the Atlantic owes much to the Stanley family. Lord Stanley is already in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Perhaps one day Sir Arthur Stanley, his third son, will join him there.


The Stanley Cup

Stanley Cup Notebook

The Original Bowl
The bowl that currently sits atop the Stanley Cup is a carefully constructed copy of the original bowl purchased by Lord Stanley in 1893. The original trophy was retired in 1969 because it had become brittle and easily damaged. It can still be viewed and studied at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Growth of the Cup
In the early days, players added their names to the trophy by scratching them onto the original bowl with a knife or a nail. From the 1890s to the 1930s, various bands were added to the bottom of the bowl to hold the names of the winning teams and their players. Throughout this time, the appearance of the Cup kept changing almost from year to year. In 1939, the Stanley Cup was given a standardized form as a long, cigar-shaped trophy. It stayed this way until 1948, when it was rebuilt as a two-piece trophy with a wide barrel-shaped base and a removable bowl and collar. The modern one-piece Cup was introduced in 1958.

Women on the Cup
Seven women have had their names engraved on the Stanley Cup: Marguerite Norris (1955) was president of the Detroit Red Wings; Sonia Scurfield (1989) was a co-owner of the Calgary Flames; Marie-Denise DeBartolo York (1991) was president of the Pittsburgh Penguins; Marian Ilitch (1997, 1998) was a co-owner of the Detroit Red Wings; Denise Ilitch (1997, 1998) with the Detroit Red Wings, Lisa Ilitch (1997, 1998) with the Detroit Red Wings and Carole Ilitch Trepeck (1997, 1998) with the Detroit Red Wings.

Playoff Postponements
The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. forced the postponement of three series games during the quarterfinal rounds of the 1968 Stanley Cup playoffs. Match-ups between the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers, and Minnesota North Stars and Los Angeles Kings were delayed by a minimum of two days.

Stanley Before Calder
Tony Esposito and Danny Grant both won the Stanley Cup one year and the Calder the next with different teams. Grant was a member of the 1968 Cup-winning Montreal Canadiens before winning the Calder as the NHL's top rookie in 1969 with Minnesota. Tony Esposito won the Cup with the Canadiens in 1969 and the Calder the following season with the Chicago Blackhawks. A player remains eligible for the Calder if he has played 25-or-fewer NHL regular-season games.

Conn Smythe Trophy Update
A total of 31 different players have won the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player to his team in the playoffs. The trophy was first awarded in 1965. Four players - Bobby Orr, Bernie Parent, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux - have won the award twice. Patrick Roy is the only three time winner. Four players - Roger Crozier of the 1966 Detroit Red Wings, Glenn Hall of the 1968 St. Louis Blues, Reg Leach of the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers and Ron Hextall of the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers - have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as members of losing teams in the Finals. Twenty-year-old Patrick Roy of the 1986 Montreal Canadiens was the youngest player ever to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. The Conn Smythe Trophy is voted upon by the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) at the conclusion of the final game of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Since the NHL was established in 1917, at least one shutout has been recorded in every playoff year except 1959 (18 games).

Charlie Gardiner

Gardiner played seven seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks

Crease Captain on the Cup Charlie Gardiner, captain of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1934, is the only goaltender to have his name appear on the Cup as the captain of a Cup-winning team.

U.S.-Based Teams in the Stanley Cup Championship The 1916 Portland Rosebuds were the first team based in the United States to participate in a Stanley Cup championship, while the 1917 Seattle Metropolitans were the first to win the Cup. The Detroit Red Wings have won nine Stanley Cups, more than any other American team, and were the first to win back-to-back titles (1936 and 1937).

Sub-.500 Teams in the Stanley Cup Championship Fifteen teams have advanced to the Stanley Cup Championship after posting regular-season records below the .500-mark. The complete list follows:





Minnesota North Stars



Vancouver Canucks



St. Louis Blues



Detroit Red Wings



Toronto Maple Leafs



Boston Bruins



Boston Bruins



Montreal Canadiens



New York Rangers



Toronto Maple Leafs



Chicago Blackhawks

22-23- 5


Detroit Red Wings

19-25- 4


Toronto Maple Leafs

19-20- 9


Chicago Blackhawks

14-25- 9


New York Rangers

19-20- 9


First Champion

Second Champion

Claude Lemieux

1995 New Jersey

1996 Colorado

Al Arbour

1961 Chicago

1962 Toronto

Ed Litzenberger

1961 Chicago

1962 Toronto

Ab McDonald

1960 Montreal

1961 Chicago

Eddie Gerard

1922 Toronto

1923 Ottawa

Lionel Conacher

1934 Chicago

1935 Montreal

Eddie Gerard

1921 Ottawa

1922 Toronto

Harry Holmes

1917 Seattle

1918 Toronto

Bruce Stuart

1908 Montreal

1909 Ottawa

Art Ross

1907 Kenora

1908 Montreal

Jack Marshall

1901 Winnipeg

1902 Montreal

Penalty Shots in the Stanley Cup Championship
A total of seven penalty shots have been awarded to players in Stanley Cup Championship history:





June 7, 1994

Pavel Bure (Van)

Mike Richter (NYR)


May 18, 1990

Petr Klima (Edm)

Rejean Lemelin (Bos)


May 30, 1985

Dave Poulin (Phi)

Grant Fuhr (Edm)


May 28, 1985

Ron Sutter (Phi)

Grant Fuhr (Edm)


May 16, 1971

Frank Mahovlich (Mtl)

Tony Esposito (Chi)


April 13, 1944

Virgil Johnson (Chi)

Bill Durnan (Mtl)


April 15, 1937

Alex Shibicky (NYR)

Earl Robertson (Det)


Canadiens Own Mark for Pro Titles
The Montreal Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cup Championships, more than any other team. The total is the second greatest number of championships in the history of professional sports. Major League Baseball's New York Yankees have won 26 World Series titles.

Gold Medalist and Stanley Cup Champion
New York Islanders' defenseman Ken Morrow is the only player in hockey history to win both an Olympic Gold Medal and a Stanley Cup in the same year. After helping the United States Olympic team win the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, Morrow joined the New York Islanders and helped them win the first of their four consecutive Stanley Cup championships. 

Stanley Cup-Winning Goals (1927-1996)

Year Player, Team Time Period Score Series
2001 Alex Tanguay, Colorado 4:57 2nd 3-1 4-3
2000 Jason Arnott, New Jersey 8:20 2nd OT 2-1 4-2
1999 Brett Hull, Dallas 14:51 3rd OT 2-1 4-2
1998 Martin Lapointe, Detroit 2:26 2nd 4-1 4-0
1997 Darren McCarty, Detroit 13:02 2nd 2-1 4-0
1996 Uwe Krupp, Colorado 44:31 OT 1-0 4-0
1995 Neal Broten, New Jersey 7:56 2nd 5-2 4-0
1994 Mark Messier, NY Rangers 13:29 2nd 3-2 4-3
1993 Kirk Muller, Montreal 3:51 2nd 4-1 4-1
1992 Ron Francis, Pittsburgh 7:59 3rd 6-5 4-0
1991 Ulf Samuelsson, Pittsburgh 2:00 1st 8-0 4-2
1990 Craig Simpson, Edmonton 9:31 2nd 4-1 4-1
1989 Doug Gilmour, Calgary 11:02 3rd 4-2 4-2
1988 Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton 9:44 2nd 6-3 4-0
1987 Jari Kurri, Edmonton 14:59 2nd 3-1 4-3
1986 Bobby Smith, Montreal 10:30 3rd 4-3 4-1
1985 Paul Coffey, Edmonton 17:57 1st 8-3 4-1
1984 Ken Linseman, Edmonton 0:38 2nd 5-2 4-1
1983 Mike Bossy, NY Islanders 12:39 1st 4-2 4-0
1982 Mike Bossy, NY Islanders 5:00 2nd 3-1 4-0
1981 Wayne Merrick, NY Islanders 5:37 1st 5-1 4-1
1980 Bob Nystrom, NY Islanders 7:11 OT 5-4 4-2
1979 Jacques Lemaire, Montreal 1:02 2nd 4-1 4-1
1978 Mario Tremblay, Montreal 9:20 1st 4-1 4-2
1977 Jacques Lemaire, Montreal 4:32 OT 2-1 4-1
1976 Guy Lafleur, Montreal 14:18 3rd 5-3 4-0
1975 Bob Kelly, Philadelphia 0:11 3rd 2-0 4-2
1974 Rick MacLeish, Philadelphia 14:48 1st 1-0 4-2
1973 Yvan Cournoyer, Montreal 8:13 3rd 6-4 4-2
1972 Bobby Orr, Boston 11:18 1st 3-0 4-2
1971 Henri Richard, Montreal 2:34 3rd 3-2 4-3
1970 Bobby Orr, Boston 0:40 OT 4-3 4-0
1969 John Ferguson, Montreal 3:02 3rd 2-1 4-1
1968 JC Tremblay, Montreal 11:40 3rd 3-2 4-0
1967 Jim Pappin, Toronto 19.24 2nd 3-1 4-2
1966 Henri Richard, Montreal 2:20 OT 3-2 4-2
1965 Jean Beliveau, Montreal 0:14 1st 4-0 4-3
1964 Andy Bathgate, Toronto 3:04 1st 4-0 4-3
1963 Eddie Shack, Toronto 13:28 3rd 3-1 4-1
1962 Dick Duff, Toronto 14:14 3rd 2-1 4-2
1961 Ab McDonald, Chicago 18:49 2nd 5-1 4-2
1960 Jean Beliveau, Montreal 8:16 1st 4-0 4-0
1959 Marcel Bonin, Montreal 9:55 2nd 5-3 4-1
1958 Bernie Geoffrion, Montreal 19:26 2nd 5-3 4-2
1957 Dickie Moore, Montreal 0:14 2nd 5-1 4-1
1956 Maurice Richard, Montreal 15:08 2nd 3-1 4-1
1955 Gordie Howe, Detroit 19:49 2nd 3-1 4-3
1954 Tony Leswick, Detroit 4:20 OT 2-1 4-3
1953 Elmer Lach, Montreal 1:22 OT 1-0 4-1
1952 Metro Prystai, Detroit 6:50 1st 3-0 4-0
1951 Bill Barilko, Toronto 2:53 OT 3-2 4-1
1950 Pete Babando, Detroit 28:31 OT 4-3 4-3
1949 Cal Gardner, Toronto 19:45 2nd 3-1 4-0
1948 Harry Watson, Toronto 11:13 1st 7-2 4-0
1947 Ted Kennedy, Toronto 14:39 3rd 2-1 4-2
1946 Toe Blake, Montreal 11:06 3rd 6-3 4-1
1945 Babe Pratt, Toronto 12:14 3rd 2-1 4-3
1944 Toe Blake, Montreal 9:12 OT 5-4 4-0
1943 Joe Carveth, Detroit 12:09 1st 2-0 4-0
1942 Pete Langelle, Toronto 9:48 3rd 3-1 4-3
1941 Bobby Bauer, Boston 8:43 2nd 3-1 4-0
1940 Bryan Hextall, NY Rangers 2:07 OT 3-2 4-2
1939 Roy Conacher, Boston 17:54 2nd 3-1 4-1
1938 Carl Voss, Chicago 16:45 2nd 4-3 3-1
1937 Marty Barry, Detroit 19:22 1st 3-0 3-2
1936 Pete Kelly, Detroit 9:45 3rd 3-2 3-1
1935 Baldy Northcott, Maroons 16:18 2nd 4-1 3-0
1934 Mush March, Chicago 30:05 OT 1-0 3-1
1933 Bill Cook, NY Rangers 7:34 OT 1-0 3-1
1932 Ace Bailey, Toronto 15:07 3rd 6-4 3-0
1931 Johnny Gagnon, Montreal 9:59 2nd 2-0 3-2
1930 Howie Morenz, Montreal 1:00 2nd 4-3 2-0
1929 Bill Carson, Boston 18:02 3rd 2-1 2-0
1928 Frank Boucher, NY Rangers 3:35 3rd 2-1 3-2
1927 Cy Denneny, Ottawa 7:30 2nd 3-1 2-0


Lord Stanley

The Stanley Cup: The Early Years

For a century now, the Stanley Cup has reigned unchallenged as the symbol of supremacy in the sport of ice hockey. It had humble beginnings, indeed, but over the years has become steeped in legend and lore. It is hockey's Holy Grail.

For fans across North America, the very words "Stanley Cup" have a special ring to them. A tightening of emotions. A quickening of pulse. A sense of anticipation. The promise of excitement.

Is their anything in sports to match a draining tensions of Stanley Cup sudden death? The boundless joy of victory, or the deepest gloom of a heartbreaking loss? For hockey fans, there is nothing like it anywhere.

The Stanley Cup has it all - tension, fear, pressure. For the winners, it is everything. For the losers, nothing.

Since its inception in 1892, the Cup has provided one thing above all others - drama. The once squat trophy glitters now from its silvery perch at the Hockey Hall of Fame, but is has suffered countless indignities along the way.

Men have spent small fortunes and lifetimes in pursuit of having their names engraved on one of the many silver bands that circle the famed trophy. The Cup's history had become legendary … and new chapters are added every year.

Throughout its checkered history, the Cup has been through just about everything - good and bad. But it has always gone to hockey's best team, as simple as that. It's the oldest trophy competed for by professional athletes in North America, predating by seven years the famous Davis Cup trophy of tennis.

There was no direct competition when the Cup first came into being back in 1892. At the time it was presented by Lord Stanley of Preston, later the Earl of Derby, who was then Governor-General of Canada. The fact that Canada's numerous hockey teams were playing just for fun was brought to the attention of Lord Stanley by Lord Kilcoursie, a hockey-playing member of Lord Stanley's staff.

Stanley quickly became a hockey enthusiast, and at a dinner on March 18, 1892 he expressed his wish to do something tangible for the great winter sport. He was returning to England upon expiration of his term as Queen Victoria's representative in Canada and he felt the Cup would serve to perpetuate his memory.

Not even the wildest promoter could have envisioned the future of the Cup. It originally cost less than 10 pounds sterling, though it has since gone on to become the most famous trophy in all sports.

Initially, Lord Stanley intended his trophy be granted only to amateur teams. There was no outright professional hockey at the time, although certain players "freelanced" from club to club, selling their services to the highest bidder. "I have for some time been thinking if there were a challenge cup, which could be held from year-to-year by the leading hockey club in Canada," Lord Stanley said in offering the trophy.

"There does not appear to be any outward or visible sign of championship at present, and considering the interest that hockey matches now elicit, and the importance of having the games played under recognized rules, I am willing to give a cup that shall be annually held by the winning club," he said. Lord Stanley's proposal was hailed in local circles, and he immediately arranged for an aide, Capt. Colville, then in England, to invest in a gold-lined silver bowl. The Lord also appointed a pair of trustees to care for the trophy.

The custom of Cup trustees endures to the present, although the initial appointments seemed to work against Lord Stanley's wishes. Apparently, he had hoped the initial presentation would be made to his favorite team in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. But that didn't happen.

Although the Ottawa club was indeed a championship one, the trustees held that no one be granted "squatters' rights" to the first Cup. And that a game between Ottawa and a Toronto club would decide the winner. The game was to be played in Toronto. But the Ottawa club refused. The trustees held firm, however, and Ottawa resigned from the Ontario Hockey Association in protest. A year went by before the trustees made a new announcement:

Arrangements have been completed whereby the Lord Stanley Hockey Cup will now pass into the hands of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association. Since trouble arose last year about the acceptance, and the Montreal AAA has had it in their possession ever since, the Montreal team will now officially take over.

That established the first of many ironies for the Cup: Its first winner didn't really compete for the right to have it. In another historical irony, Lord Stanley left the country before ever seeing a game between two teams compete for the trophy.

Despite the initial controversy, the Cup itself was an immediate hit, serving as the catalyst that more or less turned many amateur teams into professional operations. As interest in hockey grew and crowds increased, club owners and managers naturally started to pull out all the stops in their efforts to secure the services of more and more star players. The inducements to play grew each year, and within 20 years only professional teams fought for the right to the Cup.

With Lord Stanley gone, the Earl of Aberdeen succeeded him in Canada. Although the Earl and Lady Aberdeen occasionally attended hockey games, they were bigger fans of curling, another game played on ice that endures to this day. For that reason, the name on Lord Stanley's trophy was never changed, giving him a much greater historical note in history than most of his successors.


The Stanley Cup: Famous Incidents

Shaped like a punch bowl (and often used as same by celebrating champions), the Stanley Cup quickly became the prime objective of all hockey teams in Canada.

The first two decades of competition provide some of the most famous Cup incidents.

The Montreal Amateur Athletic

1893 Stanley Cup champion Montreal Amateur Athletic Association hockey team

It was March 22, 1894, when the first real game for the Stanley Cup was contested. The Amateur Hockey Association standings had finished in a four way tie between Montreal AAA, Ottawa, Quebec and the Montreal Victorias. Quebec withdrew after a dispute about scheduling, so the remaining three teams played a round robin, with Ottawa getting the bye.

Montreal AAA edged the Victorias, 3-2, for the right to play for the Cup against Ottawa on March 22. The game was very well played, and won by Montreal, 3-1, with Bill Barlow starring for the victors. A newspaper talent amusing by today's standards, read as follows:

"The hockey championship was decided tonight, and never before in the history of the game was there so large a crowd or so much enthusiasm. There were fully five thousand persons present at the match; and the tin horns, strong lungs and a general rabble predominated. The match resulted in favor of Montreal by three goals to one. The referee forgot to see many things. The ice was fairly good."

The growth of hockey was so fantastic that by the next season, in 1895, practically every village in Canada thrived on hockey. The sport had jumped from the original hotbeds of Ontario and Quebec to the west coast, and lo and behold, a prairie team from Winnipeg, also known as the Victorias, was challenging for the Stanley Cup.

It was the Victorias of Montreal versus the Victorias of Winnipeg on February 14, 1896, at Montreal. Somehow, the westerners won, 2-0. It was such an upset, that a rematch came off less than a year later.

This one was reported as "the greatest sporting event in Winnipeg history," and believe it or not, seats were supposedly "scalped" for as much as $12 apiece. The Montreal Victorias were also reported as the "much younger team ... having a more agile appearance and all were admired by ladies." It was a good scouting report, as the Montrealers overcame a 2-0 "half-time" deficit and returned the Stanley Cup to the east, with a final 6-5 victory. Ernie McLea scored the winning goal in what was modestly called "the finest match ever played in Canada."

One of the most interesting facets of hockey throughout the years has been the so-called "hat trick," referring to a player scoring three (originally three consecutive goals) in any given game. Hockey's first "team hat trick" was started with the winning of the Stanley Cup by the Montreal Victorias in December of 1896.

The "Vics" were so superior that many fans were surprised when they accepted a Cup challenge from Ottawa in December, 1897. Montreal's resounding 14-2 triumph was not quite so surprising. Originally, a two out of three series had been scheduled, but the Montreal victory was so decisive that the balance of the series was abandoned. The game received so little attention that no information on the goal scorers was published.

So powerful were the Victorias, in fact, that they made it an easy "Hat Trick" the next season by sweeping through the regular schedule with a perfect 8-0-0 record. There was no challenge to their supremacy, and the Montrealers had their three straight Stanley Cups.

Hockey in the early days was a seven-man game, 14 men on the ice in all. Today's game, six men to a side, is neater, more compact. The extra man in those days was called a "rover." He went anywhere, roaming the mostly outdoor rinks that were originally built for curling. One of the most famous rovers was Lester Patrick, who later became the first manager and coach of the New York Rangers.

Little of the sophistication of today's game was evident in the early days. A pair of portable poles, often with no net between them, constituted the goals. Goal judges, as we know them today, were practically non-existent. Certainly they were unprotected. They stood behind the poles, relatively close to the action, and wore no padding. There were, in fact, pretty good targets.

Overall, the conditions were truly rustic, almost primitive. The players, for the most part, provided their own equipment, and the games were subject to the whims of weather, which, fortunately, was almost always cold enough to maintain natural ice.

There were no sideboards in those days, and without much equipment of note, the players absorbed considerably more shock when hit with a body check. So, too, did the fans. It was a common occurrence for a player to land among the spectators after particularly successful check. At which point, the player would simply be shoved back into action by the spectators.

There were many reports, in fact, that opposing players were roughed up by partisan supporters of the opposition before being "returned" to the playing surface. Apparently, it was all considered in the spirit of the game, and anything gained at one point could be lost at another, and vice versa.

Fan enthusiasm ran so high during the early years of Cup competition that accurate attendance figures were often impossible. Patrons were often reported to have "broken down gates" in a scramble of admission.

Newspaper offices away from the locale of the game were frequently jammed with fans seeking the latest reports on the progress of Cup matches. Interest was especially high in Toronto in 1902, when the Toronto Street Railway came up with an effective, if not polished method of reporting the result of a Cup game. If the hometown Toronto Wellingtons were victorious, there would be two long blasts on their powerhouse whistle. If the locals lost, there would be three blasts. The time between the second and third blasts was especially long if you were among the gambling set.

Stanley Cup games had become a most prestigious event, indeed. It was an honor, in fact, to be able to see a deciding game, even at inflated prices. Referees, for instance, would customarily donate their services, rather than accept a monetary payment. The competing clubs, in turn, would usually present the referee with a memento of the occasion, paid for out of each club's funds.


One of the most famous clubs in the early days was the Ottawa Silver Seven, which captured three straight Stanley Cup championships from 1902-05, duplicating the "hat trick" effort of the Montreal Victorias five years earlier.

Ottawa Silver Seven

The Silver Seven kept the Cup in Ottawa for three straight years beginning in 1902

Nine challenges, some at mid-season and some at the season's end, were thrown against the fabulous Silver Seven. All were repulsed, but none will ever match the one presented in 1905 by a team from Dawson City in the Yukon Territory. Such was the enthusiasm of the Yukon team, that the players themselves bankrolled part of the 4,400-mile trip out of their own pockets, hoping to regain the $3,000 cost from gate receipts. The trip has become a fantastic legend in Cup history.

A Yukon prospector by the name of Colonel Joe Boyle arranged the trip for the ambitious Klondikers. He encountered problems no modern day road secretary could ever imagine. The team traveled 46 miles by dogsled the first day and 41 miles the next. Temperatures were in the neighborhood of 20 below zero, and some players suffered blistered feet on the third day of traveling.

The team missed a boat connection on the west coast, and had to wait five days for another, which took them from Seattle to Vancouver. Then, it was a marathon train ride, Vancouver to Ottawa.

Somehow, the Dawson City team arrived, after 23 days of travel, just one day before the series with the Silver Seven was to begin. It was, and probably always will be, the longest any team ever traveled in quest of the Stanley Cup.

Sentimental favorites though they might have been, the Dawson City team was simply no match of the Silver Seven, losing the opening game, 9-2, and the second and deciding match, 22-3. Ottawa's Frank McGee scored the unbelievable total of 14 goals in the latter game, including eight tallies in just eight minutes and 20 seconds. Even more incredible is the fact that McGee had only one good eye.

Teams from Ontario and Quebec continued to dominate the Stanley Cup, although teams from the Maritime provinces, the prairies, and the west coast of Canada continued to challenge for the trophy. Most of them lost money, too, because of the travel expenses and the fact that the series were usually two out of three affairs.

Another thing that didn't change in Cup competition was the continuing series of strange and remarkable events associated with the games. Indeed, the Cup was often in jeopardy during the early years, mostly because of careless treatment by triumphant teams.

During the three-season reign of the Ottawa Silver Seven, the Cup spent a particularly harrowing night atop, of all places, the Rideau Canal near Ottawa. One of the celebrating players, fortified no doubt by several swigs of champagne from the Cup, was challenged to dropkick the trophy into the canal, a feat he promptly accomplished.

The battered old mug might have remained there, to had not the Ottawa players come to their senses the next morning and returned in search of their prize. Fortunately, for all concerned, the canal was solidly frozen, and the Cup was found, dented perhaps but certainly undaunted.

While the history of the Stanley Cup is filled with humorous, light-hearted adventures, there are many serious, somber incidents as well.

Only once in history has "no decision" been reached in Stanley Cup play. That was in 1919. The National Hockey League had been formed by then, and the Montreal Canadiens were League champions. The trustees decided on a series between the Canadiens and the Seattle Metropolitans, champions of the Pacific Coast Hockey League.

Montreal embarked on a long trip to he west, since the PCHL season had two more week's to run. The Canadiens were playing exhibition games along the way to keep sharp. The so-called "black flu" was sweeping the continent at the same time, although none of the players had been stricken.

Finally, the series began on March 19. In those days, "western rules" and "eastern rules" were used in alternate games, with the major difference being the fact that "western rules" permitted the use of a seventh skater, the rover. Accordingly, Seattle won the first game, under western rules, and Montreal won the second, under eastern rules, with the legendary Newsy Lalonde scoring all four goals in the 4-2 triumph.

Seattle won the third game, and the fourth was a scoreless tie. Montreal evened the series by winning the fifth game, but several of the Canadiens were feeling sick during the contest. Joe Hall and Jack McDonald were affected the worst, and Hall had to leave the game because of illness. Five players, in all, were sick, along with the team manager George Kennedy.

With two wins apiece, and a scoreless tie, the teams were scheduled to meet for the championship on April 1st, but the influenza epidemic intervened. Hall was now hospitalized with a fever of 105, and four other players, plus Kennedy, were all confined to bed.

Nonetheless, Kennedy gamely offered to complete the series, with the loan of several players from nearby Victoria. Seattle graciously declined, and for the first time the Stanley Cup had no bearer.

Towns like Renfrew, Haileybury and Cobalt, all in the mining area of northern Ontario, competed for the Stanley Cup with the more familiar clubs from Montreal and Ottawa. The National Hockey Association was hockey's first truly professional league, and it was the forerunner of the National Hockey League, which was organized in 1917.

NHL franchises went to the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs and Toronto Arenas. Despite having a franchise, Quebec was unable to operate the first season. The teams played a 22-game schedule, and the Toronto Arenas captured the first Stanley Cup ever won by a National Hockey League team.

This marked the start of hockey's modern era, one that has seen the sport reach incredible heights of success, culminating in the big expansion of 1967 that doubled the league's size from six to twelve teams. Further expansion brought more and more teams into play, and by 1975, the NHL would encompass 18 teams.

Continued success and growth has brought the NHL to its current 24 teams, and clearly on the threshold of a new era that may involve international competition for the Stanley Cup in the not too distant future. Not bad for "a battered old mug" that cost just $48.67 a century ago.


Playoff Formats

The NHL has changed its playoff format numerous times over the years. What follows is a history of the various playoff formats:

1917-18 - The regular-season was split into two halves. The winners of both halves faced each other in a two-game, total-goals series for the NHL championship and the right to meet the Pacific Coast Hockey Association champion in the best-of-five Stanley Cup Finals.

1918-19 - Same as 1917-18, except that the NHL Finals were extended to a best-of-seven series.

1919-20 - Same as 1917-1918, except that Ottawa won both halves of the split regular-season schedule to earn an automatic berth into the best-of-five Stanley Cup Finals against the PCHA champions.

1921-22 - The top two teams at the conclusion of the regular-season faced each other in a two-game, total-goals series for the NHL championship. The NHL champion then moved on to play the winner of the PCHA-Western Canada Hockey League playoff series in the best-of-five Stanley Cup Finals.

1922-23 - The top two teams at the conclusion of the regular-season faced each other in a two-game, total-goals series for the NHL championship. The NHL champion then moved on to play the PCHA champion in the best-of-three Stanley Cup Semifinals, and the winner of the Semifinals played the WCHL champion, which had been given a bye, in the best-of-three Stanley Cup Finals.

1923-24 - The top two teams at the conclusion of the regular-season faced each other in a two-game, total-goals series for the NHL championship. The NHL champion then moved on to play the loser of the PCHA-WCHL playoff (the winner of the PCHA-WCHL playoff earned a bye into the Stanley Cup Finals) in the best-of-three Stanley Cup Semifinals. The winner of this series met the PCHA-WCHL playoff winner in the best-of-three Stanley Cup Finals.

1924-25 - The first place team (Hamilton) at the conclusion of the regular-season was scheduled to play the winner of a two-game, total goals series between the second (Toronto) and third (Montreal) place clubs. However, Hamilton refused to abide by this new format, demanding greater compensation than offered by the League. Thus, Toronto and Montreal played their two-game, total-goals series, and the winner (Montreal) earned the NHL title and then played the WCHL champion (Victoria) in the best-of-five Stanley Cup Finals.

1925-26 - The format which was intended for 1924-25 went into effect. The winner of the two-game, total-goals series between the second and third place teams squared off against the first place team in the two-game, total-goals NHL championship series. The NHL champion then moved on to play the Western Hockey League champion in the best-of-five Stanley Cup Finals.

After the 1925-26 season, the NHL was the only major professional hockey league still in existence and consequently took over sole control of the Stanley Cup competition.

1926-27 - The 10-team league was divided into two divisions -- Canadian and American -- of five teams apiece. In each division, the winner of the two-game, total-goals series between the second and third place teams faced the first place team in a two-game, total-goals series for the division title. The two division title winners then met in the best-of-five Stanley Cup Finals.

1928-29 - Both first place teams in the two divisions played each other in a best-of-five series. Both second place teams in the two divisions played each other in a two-game, total-goals series as did the two third place teams. The winners of these latter two series then played each other in a best-of-three series for the right to meet the winner of the series between the two first place clubs. This Stanley Cup Final was a best-of-three.

  • Series A: First in Canadian Division versus first in American (best-of-five)

  • Series B: Second in Canadian Division versus second in American (two-game, total-goals)

  • Series C: Third in Canadian Division versus third in American (two-game, total-goals)

  • Series D: Winner of Series B versus winner of Series C (best-of-three)

  • Series E: Winner of Series A versus winner of Series D (best of three) for Stanley Cup

    1931-32 - Same as 1928-29, except that Series D was changed to a two-game, total-goals format and Series E was changed to best of five.

    1936-37 - Same as 1931-32, except that Series B, C, and D were each best-of-three.

    1938-39 - With the NHL reduced to seven teams, the two-division system was replaced by one seven-team league. Based on final regular-season standings, the following playoff format was adopted:

  • Series A: First versus Second (best-of-seven)

  • Series B: Third versus Fourth (best-of-three)

  • Series C: Fifth versus Sixth (best-of-three)

  • Series D: Winner of Series B versus winner of Series C (best-of-three)

  • Series E: Winner of Series A versus winner of Series D (best-of-seven)

    1942-43 - With the NHL reduced to six teams (the "original six"), only the top four finishers qualified for playoff action. The best-of-seven Semifinals pitted Team #1 vs Team #3 and Team #2 vs Team #4. The winners of each Semifinal series met in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals.

    1967-68 - When it doubled in size from 6 to 12 teams, the NHL once again was divided into two divisions -- East and West -- of six teams apiece. The top four clubs in each division qualified for the playoffs (all series were best-of-seven):

  • Series A; Team #1 (East) vs Team #3 (East)

  • Series B: Team #2 (East) vs Team #4 (East)

  • Series C: Team #1 (West) vs Team #3 (West)

  • Series D: Team #2 (West) vs Team #4 (West)

  • Series E: Winner of Series A vs winner of Series B

  • Series F: Winner of Series C vs winner of Series D

  • Series G: Winner of Series E vs Winner of Series F

    1970-71 - Same as 1967-68 except that Series E matched the winners of Series A and D, and Series F matched the winners of Series B and C.

    1971-72 - Same as 1970-71, except that Series A and C matched Team #1 vs Team #4, and Series B and D matched Team #2 vs Team #3.

    1974-75 - With the League now expanded to 18 teams in four divisions, a completely new playoff format was introduced. First, the #2 and #3 teams in each of the four divisions were pooled together in the Preliminary round. These eight (#2 and #3) clubs were ranked #1 to #8 based on regular-season record:

  • Series A: Team #1 vs Team #8 (best-of-three)

  • Series B: Team #2 vs Team #7 (best-of-three)

  • Series C: Team #3 vs Team #6 (best-of-three)

  • Series D: Team #4 vs Team #5 (best-of-three)

    The winners of this Preliminary round then pooled together with the four division winners, which had received byes into this Quarterfinal round. These eight teams were again ranked #1 to #8 based on regular-season record:

  • Series E: Team #1 vs Team #8 (best-of-seven)

  • Series F: Team #2 vs Team #7 (best-of-seven)

  • Series G: Team #3 vs Team #6 (best-of-seven)

  • Series H: Team #4 vs Team #5 (best-of-seven)

    The four Quarterfinals winners, which moved on to the Semifinals, were then ranked #1 to #4 based on regular season record:

  • Series I: Team #1 vs Team #4 (best-of-seven)

  • Series J: Team #2 vs Team #3 (best-of-seven)

  • Series K: Winner of Series I vs winner of Series J (best-of-seven)

    1977-78 - Same as 1974-75, except that the Preliminary round consisted of the #2 teams in the four divisions and the next four teams based on regular-season record (not their standings within their divisions).

    1979-80 - With the addition of four WHA franchises, the League expanded its playoff structure to include 16 of its 21 teams. The four first place teams in the four divisions automatically earned playoff berths. Among the 17 other clubs, the top 12, according to regular-season record, also earned berths. All 16 teams were then pooled together and ranked #1 to #16 based on regular-season record:

  • Series A: Team #1 vs Team #16 (best-of-five)

  • Series B: Team #2 vs Team #15 (best-of-five)

  • Series C: Team #3 vs Team #14 (best-of-five)

  • Series D: Team #4 vs Team #13 (best-of-five)

  • Series E: Team #5 vs Team #12 (best-of-five)

  • Series F: Team #6 vs Team #11 (best-of-five)

  • Series G: Team #7 vs Team #10 (best-of-five)

  • Series H: Team #8 vs Team #9 (best-of-five)

    The eight Preliminary round winners, ranked #1 to #8 based on regular-season record, moved on to the Quarterfinals:

  • Series I: Team #1 vs Team #8 (best-of-seven)

  • Series J: Team #2 vs Team #7 (best-of-seven)

  • Series K: Team #3 vs Team #6 (best-of-seven)

  • Series L: Team #4 vs Team #5 (best-of-seven)

    The eight Quarterfinals winners, ranked #1 to #4 based on regular-season record, moved on to the semifinals:

  • Series M: Team #1 vs Team #4 (best-of-seven)

  • Series N: Team #2 vs Team #3 (best-of-seven)

  • Series O: Winner of Series M vs winner of Series N (best-of-seven)

    1981-82 - The first four teams in each division earned playoff berths. In each division, the first-place team opposed the fourth-place team and the second-place team opposed the third-place team in a best-of-five Division Semifinal (DSF) series. In each division, the two winners of the DSF met in a best-of-seven Division Final (DF) series. The two winners in each conference met in a best-of-seven Conference Final (CF) series. In the Prince of Wales Conference, the Adams Division winner opposed the Patrick Division winner; in the Clarence Campbell Conference, the Smythe Division winner opposed the Norris Division winner. The two CF winners met in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final (F) series.

    1986-87 - Division Semifinal series changed from best-of-five to best-of-seven.

    1993-94 - The NHL's playoff draw was conference-based rather than division-based. At the conclusion of the regular season, the top eight teams in each of the Eastern and Western Conferences qualified for the playoffs. The teams that finish in first place in each of the League's divisions were seeded first and second in each conference's playoff draw and were assured of home ice advantage in the first two playoff rounds.

    The remaining teams were seeded based on their regular-season point totals. In each conference, the team seeded #1 played #8; #2 vs. #7; #3 vs. #6; and #4 vs. #5. All series were best-of-seven with home ice rotating on a 2-2-1-1-1 basis, with the exception of matchups between Central and Pacific Division teams. These matchups were played on a 2-3-2 basis to reduce travel. In a 2-3-2 series, the team with the most points could choose to start the series at home or on the road. The Eastern Conference champion faced the Western Conference champion in the Cup Final.

    1994-95 - Same as 1993-94, except that in first, second or third-round playoff series involving Central and Pacific Division teams, the team with the better record had the choice of using either a 2-3-2 or a 2-2-1-1-1 format. When a 2-3-2 format was selected, the higher-ranked team also had the choice of playing games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home or playing games 3, 4 and 5 at home. The format for the Stanley Cup Final remained 2-2-1-1-1.

    1998-99 - The NHL's clubs were re-aligned into two conferences each consisting of three divisions. The number of teams qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs remained unchanged at 16.

    First-round playoff berths were awarded to the first-place team in each division as well as to the next five best teams based on regular-season point totals in each conference. The three division winners in each conference were seeded first through third for the playoffs and the next five best teams, in order of points, were seeded fourth through eighth. In each conference, the team seeded #1 played #8; #2 vs. #7; #3 vs. #6; and #4 vs. #5 in the quarterfinal round. Home-ice in the Conference Quarterfinals was granted to those teams seeded first through fourth in each conference.

    In the Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals, teams were re-seeded according to the same criteria as the Conference Quarterfinals. Higher seeded teams gained home-ice advantage.

    Home-ice advantage for the Stanley Cup Finals to be determined by points.

    All series remain best-of-seven.

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