A Day With the Stanley Cup

Holding up stanley cup

The Stanley Cup’s official home is the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) in Toronto, but nowadays, each year’s champion NHL team is allowed to possess the cup intermittently throughout the season and through the summer months. So the Stanley Cup has a new caretaker every year—the winner of the league finals. (In 2019 that’s the St. Louis Blues.) The cup is presented on the ice after the NHL’s final playoff game, and the celebration continues as the players hoist it (the team captain is usually first) and skate around the rink—but what about after that, the rest of the year?

Own the Trophy for One Day: A Stanley Cup Tradition

A tradition starting in the mid-1990s holds that every player on the championship team gets the Stanley Cup for one day—which has led to some wacky uses for it.

In 2003, reports show that Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils ate popcorn from the cup and left quite a salty and buttery mess. (Maybe the NHL needs a mini Zamboni for its beloved trophy!) 

The Edmonton Oilers’ Mark Messier took Stanley out partying and the crowd got a bit excited, damaging the cup. NHL officials were not happy about making the repairs. More dings to the cup? One of the worst was during a pool party—hockey players just don’t get it when they’re around open water, versus skating on ice—Guy Carbonneau tried to toss the cup into a swimming pool, but it struck the edge, causing damage that needed repairs. Or is that a rumor? Only Carbonneau and his teammates know. 

This swimming-pool story reminds us of the two times when players—in 1993, Patrick Roy, and before him in 1991, Mario Lemieux—tried to take Stanley swimming. Each player failed to cradle the cup and upon being released, it sunk to the bottom of the pool; each time it was recovered. 

Other reports indicate that players have urinated in the cup, so you’d hope that the bowl is scrubbed well before anything is ingested out of its bowl! (Cue that mini Zamboni.) Similarly, David Draper of the Detroit Red Wings put his baby daughter in the bowl of the Stanley Cup in 1998 and she promptly did her business. Still, Draper cleaned the cup’s bowl and drank from it later, no doubt to prove the Stanley Cup was still functional.

The “own the cup for a day” idea hasn’t kept the trophy from traveling—players have taken it to Europe and Canada (of course!) countless times, and because it’s in the care of a new player from the winning team throughout the year, it can rack up a travel itinerary of close to 100,000 miles a year. The first player to take the cup overseas was Peter Forsberg of the Avalanche in 1996.

The Hockey Hall of Fame documents where the Stanley Cup goes every year on its blog.

Drinking From the Stanley Cup

Typically, one of the initial uses of the Stanley Cup is to serve as the vessel for the winning team’s celebratory champagne. The trophy is topped with a bowl, which is filled with champagne and passed around from teammate to teammate—a tradition that was started in 1896 by the championship team from Winnipeg, Canada. 

So chugging from the Stanley Cup should come as no surprise—just about every NHL champion team does, every year. Of course, the large size of the complete cup—almost three feet tall and weighing about 35 pounds—means that hoisting it is a physical feat. Which accounts for the Montreal Canadiens’ “Rocket Richard” chipping two teeth in 1957 while chugging from it—but who’s surprised by a hockey player having chipped teeth? At least he had a good story to tell for the rest of his days!

Though it’s not quite quaffing, one year an NHL player decided to eat breakfast cereal from the cup and now that practice has caught on and seems to be a trend among Stanley Cup winners. Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, we guess, or they just want their Wheaties? 

Stanley Cup Superstitions

Professional hockey players have created myths and superstitions about the Stanley Cup, the most enduring one the notion that only a player from the winning team can touch the cup; if you haven’t gained the honor on the ice of winning the cup, touching the cup will jinx you and you will never win the cup—ever. So goes the superstition.

This curse was tested and for a time proven by the New York Rangers franchise during the duration of their Curse of 1940. This 54-year curse supposedly prevented the Rangers from winning the cup from 1940 to 1994, all because the team’s owner had desecrated it by burning the expired mortgage of Madison Square Garden in its bowl. Or depending on your source, maybe it was a curse inflicted by Red Dutton, the former coach of the New York Americans who was bitter when the NHL wouldn’t allow him to revive the team, which disbanded during World War II. What was Red thinking!? 

But Mark Messier and his Rangers teammates finally put an end to that old wives’ tale in 1994 when they captured the cup, ousting the Vancouver Canucks.   

When the Stanley Cup Was First Awarded

The Stanley Cup, so named for Lord Stanley, the Governor General of Canada when the award was instituted in 1893, is the oldest professional sports trophy awarded annually. Back in the 1890s, the Stanley Cup honored the best amateur hockey team in Canada. And so history shows that before professional hockey emerged in the 1900s, players of old got their props when the top-performing amateur team was recognized with this majestic silver trophy (originally crafted in London and brought to Canada by Lord Stanley), awarding the best team in that given year. 

As organized hockey became a spectator sport, empowering professional leagues to form as folks were willing to pay to attend events, the Stanley Cup went to the winner of the National Hockey Association and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association playoff. Because of this, the award gained popularity and the Stanley Cup gained further traction as the leading award in professional hockey. The Stanley Cup secured its lofty status still more completely when the National Hockey Association transmuted into the National Hockey League, which adopted the trophy in 1926. By the late 1940s, the silver cup had come to symbolize hockey excellence, and thus became the holy grail of the NHL, awarded each season to the NHL playoff champion. 

Competition for the cup faces off during the NHL playoffs each spring, when division champions (four teams) and runners-up (12 teams, for 16 teams total) play elimination rounds, and two finalists emerge. The winner of that best-of-seven-game championship series gets the Stanley Cup and a year’s worth of bragging rights.

The National Football League’s Vince Lombardi Trophy, the World Series Commissioner’s Trophy, and even the FIFA Jules Rimet World Cup soccer trophy may boast plenty of polish, but the Stanley Cup shines brightest among hockey players and their fans.