In 1893 we see the establishment of Ice Hockey’s premier sporting trophy; the Stanley Cup! While it is now considered the premier trophy for hockey, Lord Stanley’s mug was not the first trophy awarded. The first hockey trophy and cup was awarded for winning the Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament, appropriately called the Carnival Cup.
When the AHAC was formed, it needed its own championship trophy and adopted a very ice hockey symbolized design with crossed hockey sticks crowning it. It differed from the Carnival Cup by not being a cup and was appropriately called the Senior Championship Trophy.
Since the Senior Championship Trophy was property of the AHAC, a new trophy was needed to symbolize hockey supremacy across a growing sport and growing nation. The Stanley Cup was originally named the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup.
When the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup was donated and competed for, there was officially and unofficially only amateur teams playing for it. As industrialization and wealth spread across North America, the desire to pay to see high level hockey took root and by 1909 we had an official split of professional and amateur hockey championships. The amateur teams formed their own league to play for the Allan Cup in 1909. The professional teams then challenged each other for the Stanley Cup. By 1926 the National Hockey League became the sole professional hockey league and the Stanley Cup became the league’s championship trophy. Today, the Stanley Cup is 124 years old and is considered to be one of sport’s top trophies. Hockey further cemented its love for Cups by having its top minor league compete for the Calder Cup in 1936.
I speculate that ice hockey adopted the championship cup from Britain’s sports traditions. Canada was a British colony and adopted many of its social traditions including having a cup become its championship trophy. The British cup tradition is best enshrined in its football (soccer) league competing for the FA Cup every year since 1871.
It is not lost on me the shared symbolism of sporting campaigns leading to championship cups and heroic tales of knights questing for a chalice. The Stanley Cup, Davis Cup, America’s Cup and numerous World Cups are all now famous cup-shaped/themed trophies given to sport’s winners.
Our modern society keeps alive the symbolism of a Holy Grail (a carry-over from Arthurian literature) rewarding the finder happiness, eternal youth, or food in infinite abundance. Such an accomplishment becomes retold year after year, again not unlike children’s tales that are ritually retold.