Remembering the Stanley Cup and Frederick Arthur Stanley: March 18: Snapshots in History

March 18, 2018 | John P.

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Hockey fans in Canada look forward to the start of the ice hockey season each autumn and the start of the playoffs each spring, including those who follow the National Hockey League (NHL) to see which professional team will win the Stanley Cup championship trophy. Let's take a moment to remember the beginnings of the Stanley Cup and the man who made it possible, Frederick Arthur Stanley, who served as Canada’s sixth Governor-General from 1888-1893, after which he became the 16th Earl of Derby in the United Kingdom.


Lord_Stanley_of_Preston May 1889 by William James Topley

Portrait of Lord Stanley of Preston, May 1889, by William James Topley (1845-1930)


While in Canada, Stanley’s children embraced winter activities such as ice hockey, ice skating, tobogganing and snowshoeing. A sports enthusiast himself, Stanley wished to encourage competition in the amateur realm of ice hockey through an annual challenge cup. On March 18, 1892, a message was read out on behalf of the Governor-General to the Ottawa Athletic Association, conveying the desire for an annual challenge cup tournament, in keeping with the growing interest in ice hockey, to be held by the winning hockey club on a year-to-year basis.

Hence, the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup (now better known as the Stanley Cup) was born and first awarded to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association in 1893. (The original Stanley Cup is on permanent display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto.) Over the years, both professional and amateur hockey teams won the Stanley Cup until 1910 when the cup was awarded exclusively to professional ice hockey teams. Between 1917 and 1926, the winning teams from both the National Hockey League (NHL) and the Pacific Coast Hockey League (PCHL) played off for the Stanley Cup trophy. From 1927 onward, the teams of the NHL exclusively competed for the Stanley Cup, following the dissolution of the PCHL.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Stanley Cup 120 years of hockey supremacy



Legendary Stanley Cup stories


Greatest games of the Stanley Cup the battles and the rivalries


The ultimate prize the Stanley Cup


Quest for the Cup a history of the Stanley Cup finals  1893-2000


Brian McFarlane's history of hockey


A great game the forgotten Leafs and the rise of professional hockey