Lord Stanley of Preston
By: Keith Lenn aka KeithLenn
Note: This profile of Lord Stanley of Preston was written as a short position paper to serve as a nomination and support for his inclusion in the World Wide Hockey Hall of Fame, a “virtual” Hockey Hall of Fame in which this writer is a voting member. Lord Stanley was elected to the WWHHF as a Contributor in the virtual year of 1975. The WWHHF can be viewed at http://www.chidlovski.com/wwhhof/index.htm
Occasionally the single act of a person, however trivial or insignificant that act may seem at the time, has a profound effect on the future, be it in politics, the arts, literature, or even in the world of sports. When Lord Stanley of Preston, the sixth Governor General of Canada and an advocate of close ties between Britain and its colonies, jotted down a message for Lord Kilcoursie, Lord Stanley’s aide and a member of Ottawa’s Rideau Rebels hockey team, to read at a celebratory dinner held on March 18, 1892 for the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association, a new chapter in sports history was begun.
Lord Kilcoursie relayed the historic note to those in attendance that evening. “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.”
The far-reaching and long-term effects of this note are still felt not only in Canada, but throughout North America and worldwide over 110 years later!
When Lord Stanley of Preston first discovered the game of hockey in Canada he fell in love with the sport instantly. In 1893, his final year in office, Lord Stanley donated the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup to recognize Canada’s hockey championship team. The trophy was originally intended for amateur hockey squads but is and has been the ultimate trophy awarded by the National Hockey League since its inception. Before the trophy became a symbol for the NHL championship, a formal playoff system was created and followed by the NHA, PCHA, and WCHL. And it may not be a coincidence that after Lord Stanley’s note was read two new leagues in Nova Scotia and one in New York City were formed.
The silver bowl purchased by Frederick Arthur, Lord Stanley of Preston was also intended to promote the popularity of the sport of ice hockey and the present-day Cup itself, silver bowl atop, has become arguably the most popular and recognizable sports trophy in the world. In fact, it is the oldest sports trophy still competed for in North America.
Additionally, author Michael McKinley, in his book Hockey Hall of Fame Legends, correctly states that, “By establishing a challenge trophy, Lord Stanley also established a sense of unity, a focus and purpose for athletes in Canada’s far-flung regions.” Why else would an overconfident Dawson City team travel 33 days and over 4,000 miles by dog sled, boat, train, and foot to challenge Ottawa’s Silver Seven for “The Jug”? Regardless of the fact that Ottawa clobbered the gold diggers from the Yukon, the importance of winning the Cup far outweighed the inconveniences of primitive and dangerous travel. Others may argue that the sacrifices players make today to win the Cup are just as severe, if not as dangerous.
The legacy of the Stanley Cup does not end with the ritual hoisting of the Cup for fans to applaud. Each year many hockey fans and philanthropists pay to have his/her picture taken with the Cup. These monies are then given to charities throughout the world. In 1998 alone over $2 million dollars were raised from Cup-related charity events.
Young hockey fans worldwide, not just in Canada and North America, but across Europe and into the eastern-most parts of Russia, all dream of playing on a Stanley Cup championship team. They all dream of hoisting the easily recognizable thirty-five pound Cup over their heads as they skate around the arena to the applause of the fans. These youngsters may never know who Lord Stanley of Preston was, but it doesn’t matter. For as long as ice hockey is played, Lord Stanley’s contribution to the game will live on.
When you judge Lord Stanley of Preston, do not limit yourself to thinking that all he did was buy a silver bowl for Canada’s hockey championship. Consider the long-term effects of this single act, which evolved out of a deep love and respect for the sport of ice hockey.
Intentionally or unintentionally, Lord Stanley has shaped the sport of ice hockey in a way that arguably very few have or ever will.
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