Why is it Called the Stanley Cup?

Why is it Called the Stanley Cup?

The most prized possession in the sport of hockey often makes waves for its curious name. While the Stanley Cup is synonymous with extraordinary success, the history behind the trophy — and exactly why it should be so highly-sought after — isn’t quite as well known. In fact, all that most National Hockey League (NHL) fans and players know about the Stanley Cup is that they want to be hoisting it by the end of the season.

But because there’s such a rich tradition behind the Stanley Cup — including the fascinating reason why it has that specific name — we thought right now, as the NHL regular season makes its push toward the 2024 playoffs, would be the perfect time to answer the timeless question: Why is it Called the Stanley Cup? So without keeping you confused for any longer, let’s get right into that answer.

What is the Stanley Cup?

The Stanley Cup is the championship trophy awarded each year to National Hockey League (NHL) champion, at the conclusion of each year’s playoffs.

The Stanley Cup is the oldest existing trophy to be awarded to a professional sports franchise in North America, and it is largely viewed as the symbol of the highest success that the sport of hockey can offer its players, regardless of age, country, or any other distinguishing factor.

While the NHL has always maintained control over the Stanley Cup, the league does not actually own the trophy outright. Rather, the league uses it by agreement with the two Canadian trustees of the cup. Although the NHL has registered trademarks associated with the name and likeness of the Stanley Cup, there have been many disputes and concerns over the years about whether the league has the right to own trademarks associated with a trophy that it does not technically own.

Why is it Called the Stanley Cup?

Now to the question that everybody wants to know: Why is it called the Stanley Cup?

The Stanley Cup is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor General of Canada in 1892. Stanley and his family had fallen in love with the sport of hockey after viewing contests taking place at the 1889 Winter Carnival in Montreal, and Lord Stanley then elected to purchase the original cup, and initially intended to donate it to the first winner of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association.

While this was the Stanley Cup’s initial use, as the sport became more widespread throughout the beginning of the 20th century, more professional teams sprouted up across Canada and the United States, and therefore amateur teams were no longer the best. Then, the NHL officially bought the right to use the Stanley Cup in 1926 — and the Cup has been bequeathed to the team who emerges at the champion of every NHL season since then.

Due to being instituted as the NHL’s primary championship trophy nearly 100 years ago, the Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy that can be won by professional athletes in North America.

How Many Stanley Cups Exist?

Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t just one Stanley Cup — there are three.

While the initial Stanley Cup that was bought and donated by Lord Stanley was awarded to NHL teams from 1926 until 1970, the NHL’s president in 1970, Clarence Campbell, decided that the initial cup was too fragile to keep being hoisted and held by NHL teams and its players every season. Therefore, the original Stanley Cup — which is technically referred to as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup — was put into retirement, and is on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The current cup that’s given to championship-winning NHL teams is technically called the Presentation Cup. In case teams and fans are curious about this Presentation Cup’s authenticity, there is a Hockey Hall of Fame seal at its bottom to ensure that everybody knows this is the real thing.

Therefore, there isn’t a new Stanley Cup that’s created each year and then given to the new championship team — which is what happens with the championship trophies of all the other major North American sports organizations.

The third and final Stanley Cup is a replica of the Presentation Cup. It was created in 1993, and it is used as a stand-in for the original Stanley Cup (the one bought and donated by Lord Stanley in 1892) when the original isn’t on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame, in order to limit the original cup’s exposure and ensure its longevity.

All Winners of The Stanley Cup

Here are the winners of the Stanley Cup from 1972 to 2023:

2023Vegas Golden Knights
2022Colorado Avalanche
2021Tampa Bay Lightning
2020Tampa Bay Lightning
2019St. Louis Blues
2018Washington Capitals
2017Pittsburgh Penguins
2016Pittsburgh Penguins
2015Chicago Blackhawks
2014Los Angeles Kings
2013Chicago Blackhawks
2012Los Angeles Kings
2011Boston Bruins
2010Chicago Blackhawks
2009Pittsburgh Penguins
2008Detroit Red Wings
2007Anaheim Ducks
2006Carolina Hurricanes
2005Tampa Bay Lightning
2004New Jersey Devils
2003Detroit Red Wings
2002Colorado Avalanche
2001New Jersey Devils
2000Dallas Stars
1999Detroit Red Wings
1998Detroit Red Wings
1997Colorado Avalanche
1996New Jersey Devils
1995New York Rangers
1994Montreal Canadiens
1993Pittsburgh Penguins
1992Pittsburgh Penguins
1991Edmonton Oilers
1990Calgary Flames
1989Edmonton Oilers
1988Edmonton Oilers
1987Montreal Canadiens
1986Edmonton Oilers
1985Edmonton Oilers
1984Edmonton Oilers
1983New York Islanders
1982New York Islanders
1981New York Islanders
1980New York Islanders
1979Montreal Canadiens
1978Montreal Canadiens
1977Montreal Canadiens
1976Montreal Canadiens
1975Philadelphia Flyers
1974Philadelphia Flyers
1973Philadelphia Flyers
1972Boston Bruins

Facts About the Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup is a fascinating trophy. Here are a few facts that you might not have known about the NHL’s championship trophy, that would make for a great conversation starter with other hockey fans!

  • Each team that has won the Stanley Cup has their name etched on it. While the initial winners had their named etched on the cup’s inner bowl, a separate single ring below the original cup was created, where each team’s championship winner (and players and other members of the organization) can include their name.
  • There are many misspellings on the Stanley Cup! The name of the 1980-’81 New York Islanders is misspelled as “Ilanders,” and the 1971-’72 Boston Bruins’ name is misspelled as “Bqstqn Bruins.” Because it would cost so much to fix mistakes, most errors are left alone — which adds to the cup’s character.
  • Many players who have never won the Stanley Cup are superstitious, and afraid to touch it, so they don’t jinx their team’s chances at winning it.
  • The NHL allows each championship team 100 off-season days with the cup (accompanied by the Cup’s keeper) to do with it as they wish. Many teams allow each of their players to have one day with the Cup.
  • The Stanley Cup was flown into an active war zone at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2007, for a meet and greet. Therefore, the Stanley Cup has gone to war.
  • The Stanley Cup weighs 34.5 pounds and 35.25 inches. Yet, considering that the NHL has had to keep adding rings to the cup in order to inscribe new names and winners, it is only going to keep growing!

More Facts About the Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup, awarded annually to the National Hockey League (NHL) playoff champion, is not only a symbol of supreme achievement in hockey but also an object of numerous fascinating facts and stories. Here are some highlights that encapsulate its rich history and unique characteristics:

  • Historical Significance: The Stanley Cup was originally donated by Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor General of Canada, in 1892, making it the oldest professional sports trophy in North America. It was intended to be awarded to Canada’s top-ranking amateur ice hockey club​​​​.
  • Unique Features: Unlike other major sports trophies, a new Stanley Cup is not made each year; winners originally kept it until a new champion was crowned. The Cup has evolved in design, with the current version standing at 89.5 centimeters tall and weighing 15.6 kilograms. It is made of a silver and nickel alloy​​.
  • Engraving Process: The Cup’s bands are engraved with the names of the winning team’s players, coaches, management, and staff. However, due to space limitations, not all members can be included. This engraving process has led to various misspellings and corrections over the years, adding to the Cup’s idiosyncratic charm​​​​.
  • Multiple Versions: There are actually three versions of the Stanley Cup: the original 1892 bowl, the Presentation Cup, and the Replica Cup kept at the Hockey Hall of Fame. The Presentation Cup is the one awarded today and has been since 1963, due to concerns about the original’s condition​​.
  • Traditions and Superstitions: The Cup has been involved in numerous traditions, including the winning team drinking champagne from it. Superstitions also abound, with some players refusing to touch it until they have won it, for fear of bad luck​​​​.
  • Notable Incidents: The Stanley Cup has experienced a variety of adventures, including being left by the side of the road, used as a flower pot, and even submerged in swimming pools and canals. These stories contribute to the lore and legend surrounding the Cup​​​​.
  • Inclusivity: The Cup’s engravings include not only players but also women and non-playing staff under special circumstances, reflecting the NHL’s recognition of contributions from a wide range of individuals associated with the winning teams​​​​.
  • Guardianship: The Cup is always accompanied by at least one representative from the Hockey Hall of Fame, known as the Keeper of the Cup, ensuring its safety and overseeing its presentation to the winning team​​.

Traditions and Superstitions About The Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup, emblematic of NHL championship success, is surrounded by a rich tapestry of traditions and superstitions, deeply ingrained in the fabric of professional hockey. These customs and beliefs, passed down through generations, contribute to the Cup’s mystique and the reverence with which it is held in the hockey community. Here are some key traditions and superstitions associated with the Stanley Cup:

  • Drinking from the Cup: It is a time-honored tradition for winning team members to drink champagne from the Stanley Cup in celebration of their victory​​.
  • Hoisting the Cup: Players lift the Stanley Cup above their heads and skate around the rink, a gesture symbolizing their triumph and personal achievement. This act has become one of the most iconic images in sports​​.
  • Day with the Cup: Each member of the winning team gets to spend a day with the Stanley Cup, taking it to personal celebrations, their hometowns, or charity events. This tradition highlights the personal connection players and staff have with the Cup​​.
  • Superstitious Respect: Many players refuse to touch or even get too close to the Stanley Cup unless they have won it, fearing that premature contact could jinx their chances of winning it in the future​​​​.
  • Avoiding the Conference Trophies: Similarly, some players will not touch their conference championship trophies (the Prince of Wales Trophy for the Eastern Conference and the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl for the Western Conference) believing that the only trophy worth touching is the Stanley Cup​​.
  • Keeper of the Cup: The Stanley Cup is always accompanied by a designated Keeper of the Cup from the Hockey Hall of Fame, ensuring its safety and proper handling. This tradition underscores the Cup’s value and prestige​​.
  • Names on the Cup: Winning the Stanley Cup guarantees that the players, coaches, and key personnel have their names engraved on it, immortalizing their achievement. The decision of whose names are included is subject to strict guidelines and sometimes even controversy​​.
  • Rituals and Celebrations: Teams and players often develop their own unique rituals for their day with the Cup, ranging from taking it to their favorite local spots to involving it in family or community events, showcasing the deep personal significance of their victory​​.

These traditions and superstitions contribute to the Stanley Cup’s standing as not just a trophy, but a revered symbol of hockey excellence and history, embodying the dreams, dedication, and achievements of generations of hockey players.


Now that we’re all caught up on the Stanley Cup, including some fun facts to share with friends, we can all get excited about finding out who is going to hoist the Stanley Cup at the conclusion of the 2024 season.

While it appears that the Boston Bruins, the Florida Panthers, and the Dallas Stars, and the Colorado Avalanche are the top teams in the NHL right now, the beauty about hockey is that the playoffs present a clean slate. Each season has seen underdogs emerge victorious — and this season should be no different. Therefore, we can’t know for sure who’ll be hoisting up the Stanley Cup until they really do so!


What is the Stanley Cup?

The Stanley Cup is the championship trophy awarded annually to the National Hockey League (NHL) playoff winner. It is the oldest existing trophy to be awarded to a professional sports franchise in North America.

Who has won the most Stanley Cups?

The Montreal Canadiens have won the most Stanley Cups, with a total of 24 championships to their name

Which teams have never won the Stanley Cup?

The teams that have never won the Stanley Cup include the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Seattle Kraken, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets​

When was the first Stanley Cup awarded?

The first Stanley Cup was awarded in 1893 to the Montreal Hockey Club, recognized as the first-ever Stanley Cup champions.

How is the winner of the Stanley Cup determined?

The winner is determined through the NHL playoffs, which is a postseason tournament that follows the conclusion of the regular season. Teams compete in a series of rounds, culminating in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Can players’ names be added to the Stanley Cup?

Yes, it is a tradition to engrave the names of the players, coaches, management, and staff of the winning team on the bands of the Stanley Cup.

What happens if the Stanley Cup runs out of space for names?

When the bands of the Cup are filled with names, the oldest band is removed and displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a new blank band is added to the bottom

Has the Stanley Cup ever not been awarded?

Yes, the Stanley Cup was not awarded in 1919 due to the Spanish flu epidemic and in 2005 because of the NHL lockout

What are some unique traditions associated with the Stanley Cup?

One unique tradition is that each member of the winning team gets to spend a day with the Stanley Cup. Players often celebrate with the Cup in their hometowns or share it with the community

James Idayi
Posted in NHL