Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Field Guide To Hockey Trophies, Part I

Lord Stanley of Preston

An interesting little discussion came up on the CBC Saturday night, during one of the period breaks in the Maple Leafs-Bruins game (Game Story: "Brian Burke haz a sad"), concerning the idea of renaming some of the NHL trophies. Apparently, there is concern in some quarters that the names attached to the trophies are just a wee bit too obscure, and thus need replacing with some more recent, well-known, monikers. And so it is proposed the the league's leading scorer each year should no longer receive the Art Ross Trophy, but rather the Wayne Gretzky Trophy, and so on. Now, honouring the game's great names is an excellent idea, but to do so by relegating other great names to the back pages of history seems very very wrong to me.

Surprisingly, however, this appalling idea actually has some support. Glen Healy was all for it during the segment I saw on TV on Saturday (video included in the link above), much to the puzzlement of Mike Milbury and Ron MacLean. And today I discovered that Elliotte Friedman had pushed the idea on his blog a full year ago. And so, we here at De Koboldorum Rebus have taken up educational arms, and are doing something about it. We hereby present a sort of " Brief Field Guide to the Trophies of the National Hockey League, Especially the People After Whom They Are Named." Sources for this are variably NHL.com, Hockey Reference, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Wikipedia. This thing will come into being in three parts, beginning today with:


The Stanley Cup: Awarded yearly to the champions of the NHL playoffs, which you probably knew. The Cup was donated in 1892 by Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, who was many things but most importantly for our purposes Governor General of Canada between 1888 and 1893. Lord Stanley and his wife became hockey fans after their sons took up the amateur game in Ottawa during his tenure there. And yes, he is the Stanley who dedicated the famous park in Vancouver that bears his name (apparently, Lord Stanley had a deep affection for western Canada). As far as I know, "Lord Stanley's Mug" is the oldest still-awarded professional sports trophy in North America, and one of the three or four oldest in the world, although I'm willing to be corrected on that.

The Presidents' Trophy: Note the apostrophe. Awarded to the team with the best overall record during the regular season. The trophy was donated in 1985 by the league's Board of Governors, and I'm not dead sure to which presidents the name refers. The presidents of the NHL, presumably.

The Prince of Wales Trophy: Now awarded to the champions of the Eastern Conference playoffs. However, the trophy has had a number of roles through the years, and was originally donated to be awared to the champions of the NHL playoffs. It is named, obviously, for the Prince of Wales. Ah, but which one? Well, the trophy was donated in 1924, and is thus named for the man who would briefly become King Edward VIII before abdicating to marry Wallis Simpson. I do not know if the Prince was particularly a hockey fan, although according to his Wikipedia entry he did own a ranch in southern Alberta.

The Clarence S. Campbell Bowl: The Western Conference counterpart to the Prince of Wales Trophy. It was donated upon the NHL's expansion in 1967, although I have read (at the HHOF site and on Wikipedia) that the physical trophy was made in the 19th century. It is named, obviously, after Clarence Campbell, legendary president of the NHL from 1946 to 1977. Campbell must go down with baseball's Kennesaw Mountain Landis as one of the great, iron-fisted rulers of professional sports - fitting for a man who'd been an NHL referee in the 1930s and a war crimes prosecutor during World War II. Campbell suspended players Billy Taylor and Don Gallinger for life after allegations of gambling, but is probably best remembered for his suspension of Maurice Richard in March of 1955, and the aftermath of that. He was, generally speaking, a tough egg.

So there you have some little capsules on the major team trophies. Next up: The major individual trophies!

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