Stanley Cup Stands as Best Trophy in Sports

Hockey may play third fiddle in many towns (and fourth everywhere else), but trophy to the NHL champions stands alone because of the Stanley Cup’s culture.

By Justin Shimko

You can see it on parade after parade. Bars see profits soar on mere rumors of its arrival. There’s even a mobile app to help you find it during your daily life. You could even find it attending the recent Mumford & Sons concert at Montrose Beach last weekend, alongside the 35,000 fortunate folks to catch a glimpse of the British band drinking from it. The Stanley Cup, the championship trophy for the NHL, is no stranger to public appearances, making it the revered trophy it is today.

Stanley Cup, on display at the Hockey Hall of ...

Stanley Cup, on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame, is awarded to the league champion. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Stanley Cup is not just your average trophy. Instead of replica after replica issued every year and stored in some bullet-proof glass case for everyone to look at, but not touch, the Stanley Cup stands as the original - well, as original as you can get in today’s world. Instead, this silver hardware tours the world with the victors for 320 days out of the year, going wherever the players go throughout the year. A player wants to visit troops in Afghanistan? He can take the Cup with him. Going home to Slovakia? Cup’s gone there, too. Heck, as long as you have an official from the Hockey Hall of Fame along, you could go to space with the Cup on your designated day. I won’t be too surprised when that finally happens.

These kind of stories are what makes the Stanley Cup so unique, so special, over other sports trophies. It doesn’t stay locked away or replicated for each champion. Names are engraved on the bottom ring, a reminder to everyone that you were the victors for that year, and then sent off to the next champion. And for a time in between the two Finals, Lord Stanley’s legacy takes on an adventure even most wanderlust’s would find exhausting.

Because the Cup travels so well, especially in the victors’ city, it becomes more than just a symbol of what the team accomplished. Fans and non-fans of the NHL take time to catch a glimpse at the silver bowl that stands atop the names of champions past whenever it passes by. Didn’t get to the bar where the Blackhawks - this year’s champion - hung out last night? Don’t worry, they’ll be at a parade, event, concert, or restaurant the next. It transforms the feeling of your team to winning it all on the ice to the entire community becoming the best out there.

In 1997, I endured a trek to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to visit the Packer Hall of Fame. It wasn’t my choice, not by far. In fact, I dreaded the entire drive up there. But the first thing I saw inside the museum were the three Lombardi Trophies awarded to the team at the time. Each stood behind thick glass and had special lamps shine down on them to acknowledge their prestige. But there were three of them, not one. And each one had not been touched for some time, save for the occasional polishing likely done to ensure continued luster. Was it interesting to see? Yes. Was it awe-inspiring? Not in the least.

What the Lombardi Trophy has that the Stanley Cup doesn’t is the audience who watches it won. But the Cup tops the NFL’s hardware because when your team wins it the chances creating a memory of when you touched the Cup, took your picture with the it, even drank from it becomes a possibility. There is no need to shell out cash to some museum for it. Instead, there is just a mobile app and a bit of luck to have that special moment.

I’ve been fortunate to see the Cup three times in my short time here, once each year Chicago won it all and most recently at that Mumford & Sons concert on Cricket Hill. I had my photo taken with it. I can’t say anything close to that regarding professional baseball, basketball or football trophies, nor have I really desired to have one. I get silly t-shirts and hats for them, sometimes, shelling out cash to an organization that clearly doesn’t need it if they are able to win their title already.

But with hockey, I seek out those memories. For the Blackhawks I didn’t buy memorabilia, I created it. And my photos and memories with Lord Stanley’s Cup cannot be plastered on countless shirts or license plate holders. Yeah, Chicago sells plenty of them, as witnessed by the mass of people walking the streets with their “official championship gear.” But none of them involve pictures of them with the trophy, or involve witnessing four British musicians drink from the revered chalice.

And while it will be exciting and emotional when the Chicago Cubs finally emerge victorious on some chilly October night, I will not try to get my picture taken with the Commissioner’s Trophy. I will celebrate with the millions of fans - bandwagon or otherwise - as we weep for the impossible. And that will be the closest you could come to replicating the aura surrounding the Cup. Fans of the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees cannot say the same thing, with their multiple World Series titles adorning bullet-proof cases. But if the Montreal Canadiens were to win it all, making a decent 25 titles in their illustrious history, the celebration would be just as exciting as it is right now for Chicago.

Because no matter how many times your team wins it you still want to have the chance to sit in a bar and see a handful of guys walk in and hoist it above their heads, giving you a chance to have a moment with the legacy Lord Stanley of Preston, 16th Earl of Derby and Sixth Governor-General of Canada.


Justin Shimko

Justin Shimko is an award-winning writer and political analyst. He began as a reporter in his college days at the University of Oklahoma, writing for The Oklahoma Daily (rated as one of the best collegiate newspapers in the nation) and The Oklahoman, the statewide newspaper, winning awards from the CSPA and the Society of Professional Journalists. He later moved on to research and writing work for a number of political campaigns. His email is [email protected]