Most in the Deep South have no idea or any conception of what it will mean for the Los Angeles Kings if the National Hockey League favorites beat the New Jersey Devils in Newark’s Prudential Center tonight. That’s okay – winning the 2012 NHL championship and the fabled Stanley Cup is admittedly noble but the aura and the mystique is something Southerners don’t yet understand. That’s a shame because the Stanley Cup is, far and away, the greatest trophy in all of sports.
Unlike championship trophies in other sports – where the football, baseball and golf champions proudly keep them on display for life – the Stanley Cup rotates from one winner to the next every year. And what makes it so glorious is that every player, coach and team official gets to keep the trophy for one day every summer.
Let me help you here. Mark Bolt, the “Keeper of the Cup,” has delivered it to grown men who, upon seeing the revered 35-pound silver trophy at their door, actually sit in the floor and cry. Players take it to children’s hospitals, ride their motorcycles up mountains with the trophy strapped on the back, and let their children eat Cheerios out of its bowl. Don’t you see? It literally belongs to each member of the championship team for one day.
I just get giddy over stuff like that. The Stanley Cup was purchased in 1892 for 10 Guineas ($50 back then) as a trophy to recognize “the championship hockey club in the Dominion of Canada.” Suffice it to say there has been a lot go on in the sport since then but every human being in Canada and much of the United States will agree the oldest trophy in North America is also the most recognizable.
When people see it in a player’s possession they go crazy. It was named for Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, that would be “Lord Stanley of Preston,” since it was his idea (and that he paid for it.)
He was the Governor General of Canada at the time and adored the ancient sport. But today it is hockey’s hallowed “Holy Grail” and has often been hailed as “Lord Stanley’s Mug” since so many champions – and their families, friends and even strangers in strip clubs -- have toasted from it. The NHL, as we know it, was formed around the time of World War I, and since then the Cup has been won a combined 94 times by 17 active NHL teams and five more that are now defunct. For the record, the Montreal Canadians have won it a record 24 times and – if the Kings dagger the Devils tonight – it will be just the second time it has been to California. (The Anaheim Ducks won it in 2007).
Another thing you need to know is the name of every player, coach, management and club staff is engraved on the cup’s increasing long chalice. That’s right – when the Boston Bruins won it last year every person’s name was engraved on the Cup, creating a very personal legacy that future generations can boast, “His name is on the Cup.”
Montreal’s Henri Richard has his name engraved on the Cup as a player the most times -- 11 – and is followed by Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer, also who played with the Canadians, at 10 apiece. The fact that Beliveau was in management for seven more titles makes his the most overall at 17. Then there is Dickie Moore, the Hall of Famer played for Montreal from 1951 through 1963. His name is on the Cup six times as D. Moore, Richard Moore, R. Moore, Dickie Moore and Rich Moore.
I’m telling you, the Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in all of sports. It is so revered by NHL players none dare touch it until they hoist it as a champion. The legend is that any hockey player who touches the Cup before they properly earn the right will be jinxed and, while some may scoff, you won’t find an NHL player who dares the risk.
Don’t you wish every prize had such a glitter?