The National Hockey League needs to do more to encourage better coverage of the hockey games. With so many other sports realizing national coverage, the NHL is sometimes forgotten. However, this year, there’s a race for the Stanley Cup, and only one is set to win it. But which team will that be?
Right now, bookmakers are showing that, while the Philadelphia Flyers were on top only days ago, the odds are now swinging back and forth with the Flyers and other potential contenders such as the Ottawa Senators, as the teams to watch in the sprint for the Stanley Cup this year. Of course, all of the NHL information and stats change daily, but the odds are the best current indicator of which team is certainly a contender for the Stanley Cup of 2006.
However, the race for the 2006 Cup didn’t simply begin with the end of the 2005 playing season and the winning of the Stanley Cup for the year. It began over 100 years ago in 1892, at a dinner of the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association. A speech was delivered that indicated that a challenge cup would be a good idea and that this contest should be held from year to year for the teams in the Dominion of Canada. At the time, that was a grand total of three major teams. You might be accurate in an assumption that the National Hockey League has seen tremendous growth since then.
Lord Stanley purchased a silver cup which by today’s standards would only have a value of only about $50 and appointed Sheriff John Sweetland and Philip D. Ross as trustees of the cup. This Stanley Cup is the same cup that the two men were trustees over all of those years ago.
The winners of each year’s Stanley Cup are tasked to hold the Cup and to return it in good condition to the trustees at year’s end so that it may be given to the winner of the next Cup. The Cup is never to become the exclusive property of a single team regardless of how many times that team may win the trophy but each year the winning team’s club name and the year are engraved on the silver ring fitted on the Cup.
That very first year, the Stanley Cup was taken by the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) hockey club as the winners for 1894. Unfortunately, Lord Stanley was never to witness a championship game or even the presentation of the trophy he had purchased because he returned to England, his homeland, in mid-1893.
The popularity of hockey grew so quickly that in 1895 almost every town in Canada had a team which thrived on hockey. No longer were Ontario, Quebec and Winnipeg the only teams that were ready to take the Stanley Cup. Instead numerous teams came out and all of the teams were strong contenders for the Stanley Cup. In 1896, the Victorias of Montreal versus the Victorias of Winnipeg placed with the Winnipeg team taking the Cup 2 to 0. Less than a year later, a rematch was to occur.
Presented as the greatest sports ever in Winnipeg history, even in the economy of 1896, tickets were scalped for as much as $12 each. Everyone wanted to see this Stanley Cup playoff game. Montreal won this match up 6 to 5 after being down 2 to 0 at halftime. It was documented as the finest match ever played in Canada.
While the early Stanley Cup games differed greatly from today’s game, the popularity has continued to rise over the many years. Originally, there were seven men on the ice for each team rather than the six we know today. Sideboards were non-existent and players used very little sports equipment. Injuries were quite common and much more serious than what players of today have to deal with in their hockey games and practices.
The Stanley Cup is considered to be the most famous trophy in the sporting world. It is certainly the oldest trophy competed for by professional athletes, having logged more than 400,000 miles in travel during only the past five seasons. Traditionally, each winning player and team management staff member gets to take the Cup home for one day to share with their friends and family.
No matter how the lines move between now and the final play for this year’s Stanley Cup, you simply will not want to miss keeping track as the big day draws closer. This game is the Super Bowl of hockey and it pales in comparison to many other sports as far as national coverage is concerned. The Stanley Cup will be watched by millions, some of whom are not traditionally hockey fans and many who do not know the history behind Lord Stanley’s great purchase. And for a sporting event to be worthy of a trophy which travels over 400,000 miles to note the worthy accomplishments of one lone team, it’s an event that no one should miss especially those behind the major networks! Incidentally, in the humble opinion of many fans, the only true contender this year for the Stanley Cup is the Philadelphia Flyers. What do you think?