Fun Facts About Ice Hockey and The Stanley Cup
The Origin of Hockey
Hockey has been played in some form or other for 100s of years. It is thought to be 1 of the earliest sports in the world, and was played by the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, and Arabs.
Hurling, a sport very similar to hockey, is known to have been played during the first millennium BC in Ireland, and other similar types of sports were adopted by other Europeans in the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century). In pre-Columbian times (before the 16th century) Native South Americans also played a game much the same as hockey. The name hockey, thought to have been adapted by the English from the French word hoquet (shepherd’s crook), was 1st given to the sport in the eighteenth century but was not in common usage until the nineteenth century.
The modern game of ice hockey was invented in the mid-1850´s by British soldiers based in Canada. Rules were set by students at McGill University in Montréal, Canada, in 1879, and many amateur clubs and leagues were organized in Canada by the late 1880´s. The game is believed to have been 1st played in the USA in 1893. By the beginning of the twentieth century the sport had spread to England and other parts of Europe. The modern game developed in Canada, and nowadays is very popular in North America and East Europe.
The Stanley Cup
“I have for some time been thinking that it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup, which would be held from year to year by the leading hockey club in Canada. There does not appear to be any outward sign of a championship at present, and considering the interest that hockey matches now elicit, I am willing to give a cup which shall be held annually by the winning club.”
So mused Lord Stanley of Preston in 1892, at a sports banquet in Ottawa. The following year Canada’s governor-general was true to his word, purchasing a silver bowl for $50 and naming it the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. Hockey folks went with a less formal designation, the Stanley Cup.
The first winner was a Montreal team that finished atop the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, considered the best league going at the time. But in its early years, the prize was not exclusive to one hockey league, nor was it meant to be. It was a challenge cup, changing hands in much the same way as a boxing title. Contenders issued challenges, and the champions held the Cup for as long as they could fend off all comers. Independent trustees ensured that legitimate challenges were met on a regular basis.
In later years, as professionalism swept the game, it was accepted that the Stanley Cup could not remain exclusive to amateur teams. The Stanley Cup officially turned pro in 1910, when the National Hockey Association took possession of it. But it was not until 1926 that the National Hockey League emerged indisputably as the top league in North America, effectively taking control of the Cup. That control was formalized in an agreement signed with the Cup trustees in 1947.