All You Ever Needed to Know About the Stanley Cup Trophy

Posted: December 7, 2015

Updated: October 6, 2017

It’s big. It’s silver. There are a ton of names written on it. Is there anything else that needs to be known about the Stanley Cup trophy? Turns out that yes, there is!

The Stanley Cup trophy is a sports icon, an image familiar to fans of ice hockey and internet betting across the world. And why wouldn’t it be? At 124 years old, the National Hockey League’s grand prize is older than the league itself. If you find that bit of information surprising, then read on, as there are many surprising, interesting, and downright bizarre facts and traditions that surround the Holy Grail of hockey.

The Stanley Cup trophy is one of a kind

Bobby Orr Cup

Hockey great Bobby Orr drinking out of the Cup (Photo: The Richest)

The Stanley Cup trophy is the oldest trophy in North American professional sports. Commissioned in 1892 by Lord Stanley of Preston—then the Governor General of Canada—as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, it was originally meant to be awarded to Canada’s top-ranking amateur hockey club. It wasn’t until 1926, after a series of folds and league mergers, that it became the NHL championship trophy.

The Cup is unique among professional sports league awards in that is the only one that is not recreated every year. Instead, it has been built on over the years, having changed shape and length to be what it is today. Starting as a small silver cup, it grew in size whenever a new band was added, eventually beginning to resemble a stovepipe. It was eventually redesigned in 1958 to the five-band barrel that we know and love today. To keep it from growing, whenever the bottom band is full, the oldest band is removed to be preserved in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a new band added.

Another exceptional trait of the Stanley Cup trophy is its engravings, with that season’s winning team’s players, coaches, management, and club staff added to the chalice every year. Though they’re not always perfect, as dozens of names have been reported by US gambling news as misspelled—they even spelled the Boston Bruins as the “Bqstqn Bruins” once—and the errors are almost always left as they are given how costly it’d be to fix the mistakes.

Oh, and it’s apparently also cursed. But that’s a long story.

The Stanley Cup trophy has traveled all over the world

Phil and the Cup

The Stanley Cup taking a plane ride with its official keeper (Photo: The Players Tribune)

Online sportsbooks in US users would be surprised to know that while it is the league’s ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup trophy does not actually belong to the NHL. Technically speaking, it is owned and governed by two Trustees who have absolute power over matters regarding the trophy and the conditions of its awarding. Due to it being a visual representation of winning, the NHL uses it through an agreement with the Trustees.

In addition to Trustees, the Stanley Cup trophy also has a keeper, who goes wherever it goes. The current keeper is Philip Pritchard, who has chaperoned the Cup on all of its plane rides, limousine rides, victory tours, and world travels, including (but not limited to) visits to: Bled Castle in Slovenia; a strip club in New York; the Hollywood sign; the White House in Washington; a roller coaster; an Afghan war zone; an igloo; and a soccer game in Moscow.

In relation to the Cup’s busy schedule, there are special terms and conditions surrounding its handling. Such as the fact that each championship team is only allowed one hundred off-season days with the Stanley Cup trophy, during which each championship player is allowed one personal day with the Cup to do with it as they wish. Which leads us to the next part…

The Stanley Cup trophy has many uses

LA Kings Cup

Alec Martinez spooning the Cup (Photo: LA Times)

Baptismal font, drinking glass, toilet, flowerbed, popcorn bowl, engagement ring bearer, beer cooler, TV set prop… The Stanley Cup trophy has been used for many things.

While there are famous, socially acceptable uses for the Stanley Cup trophy—such as winning teams celebrating by drinking champagne out of it, and the traditional hoisting of the Cup by the team captain—it has also been used for a variety of other things, and has experienced some shocking moments as a result, to say the least.

It’s gone swimming not once, but three times. It’s been licked by Hayden Panettiere. A newborn baby pooped in it. It was dropped in a bonfire. It was dropkicked across the Rideau Canal. It was the co-pilot in a helicopter. It was onstage with Def Leppard. It made a cameo on 30 Rock and Boston Legal and was a special guest star on many a late night TV show. It’s been in bed with an uncountable number of hockey players. The list goes on, and on, and on.

It doesn’t really seem like the right way to treat (or mistreat?) the grand prize of a prestigious major sports league, but hey, this is ice hockey we’re talking about. The game in which chucking octopuses onto the ice is a beloved tradition and distraught fans literally destroyed downtown Vancouver when the Canucks lost the playoffs. That they’d chuck the Stanley Cup trophy into a pool or baptize babies in it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

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