Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, 1896

Edited from Wikipedia entry:

Lord Stanley of Preston as Governor General of Canada became highly enthusiastic about ice hockey. Stanley was first exposed to the game at Montreal’s 1889 Winter Carnival, where he saw the Montreal Victorias play the Montreal Hockey Club.

Stanley’s entire family became active in ice hockey. Two of his sons, Arthur and Algernon, formed a new team called the Ottawa Rideau Hall Rebels. Arthur also played a key role in the formation of what later became known as the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA), and would go on to be the founder of ice hockey in Great Britain.

Arthur and Algernon persuaded their father to donate a trophy to be “an outward and visible sign of the hockey championship”. Stanley sent the following message to the victory celebration for the three-time OHA champion Ottawa Hockey Club:

“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.

I am not quite certain that the present regulations governing the arrangement of matches give entire satisfaction, and it would be worth considering whether they could not be arranged so that each team would play once at home and once at the place where their opponents hail from.”

As regular season champions of the AHAC in 1896, the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup (known today as the Stanley Cup) was to awarded to Montreal Victorias but only if the previous year’s AHAC champion defended it. Thus the Montreal Hockey Club had to defend the AHAC’s Challenge Cup title against the the Queen’s University Hockey Club of the Ontario Hockey Association. This was the first ever played Cup challenge between rival leagues. The result was:

The Montreal Victorias lost the Cup to the Winnipeg Victorias. The Victorias defended the 1895 title because of their previous year’s first place finish. Despite finishing first in the AHAC in 1896 they challenged their Winnipeg counterparts and had to wait until the end of the year to reclaim the cup.

February 14, 1896 – Winnipeg Victorias (MHA) 2–0 over Montreal Victorias (AHAC) played in Montreal

December 30, 1896 – Montreal Victorias (AHAC) 6–5 over Winnipeg Victorias (MHA) played in Winnipeg


Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup Championship Days to December 31, 1896
Team Start End Challengers # of days total days
Montreal Hockey Club (AHAC) 720
Montreal Victorias (AHAC) January 1, 1896 February 13, 1896 Defeated by MHA 43 342
Winnipeg Victorias (MHA) February 14, 1896 December 29, 1896 Defeated CAHL; then lost to CAHL 320 320
Montreal Victorias (AHAC) December 30, 1896 December 31, 1896 Defeated MHA 2 344

Even though the Winnipeg Victorias won the Cup in 1896, the engraving on the actual Cup is engraved as:

– OF –

1895 is written because Winnipeg they defeated the 1895 defending Cup Champions before the 1896 season had been completed. For the purposes of date integrity, this website tracks and counts dates based on calendar year. Not only is this clearer, it also allows for tracking of “Championship Days” when the cup was held by a team and league.

There are actually three Stanley Cups in existence:
1) Stanley’s original Cup from 1892, known as the “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup” was awarded until 1970, and is now on display in the Vault Room at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
2) In 1963, NHL president Clarence Campbell believed that the original Cup had become too brittle to give to championship teams, so the “Presentation Cup” was created and is the well-known trophy awarded today.
3) The final Cup is a “Replica Presentation Cup”, which was created in 1993 by Montreal silversmith Louise St. Jacques and is used as a stand-in at the Hall of Fame when the Presentation Cup isn’t available.

Unlike other major league sports trophies, a new Cup isn’t made every year. Instead, after each championship, the names of the players, coaches, management, and staff of the winning team are added to the Cup. The first team to have its roster engraved was the 1906-07 Montreal Wanderers, whose names were etched within the inner bowl of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. The only other team names engraved on the inner bowl are the 1914-15 Vancouver Millionaires.

Al Young
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