Stanley Cup 101

A brief guide to one of the most famous trophies in sports

Nicklas Lidstrom and the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Stanley Cup in 2008. (Shaun Best/Reuters) Nicklas Lidstrom and the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Stanley Cup in 2008.
By Lenny Neslin
For The Globe / May 25, 2011

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The Stanley Cup is the championship trophy of the National Hockey League. Here's a review of interesting facts about its origins, winners and traditions.

Who gets it?

The NHL's Eastern and Western Conference champions meet in a best-of-7 series for the cup.

Cup not for keeps

The winning team takes possession of the Stanley Cup until the next champion is crowned, but does not get to keep it.

Winners engraved

The names of the players on the winning team are engraved on the Stanley Cup. The practice began in 1907, and it became a tradition in 1924. According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, 2,163 names are engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Canadien Domination

The Montreal Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup 24 times, which is nearly double the number of championships by the team with the second most. The Bruins have won the Cup five times, most recently in the 1971-72 season.

Lord Stanley never saw a Cup game

Lord Stanley, Canada’s Governor-General, donated the cup in 1892, but never saw a Stanley Cup game.

Stanley Cup tales

The Stanley Cup has been misplaced, kidnapped and dented more than once in its 118-year existence.

1905: The Ottawa Silver Seven dropkicked the Cup into a frozen canal, left it there overnight, then retrieved it the next day.

1907: A young man stole the Cup from a photographer's home and tried to sell it. But there was no interest (in the Cup, so he returned it to a lady who decided it would make a wonderful flower pot. That's how it was used for a few months until the Montreal Wanderers' brass rescued it.

1924: Canadiens players were on their way to a victory party when their car had a flat tire. The trophy was in the trunk, so they removed it to get the spare, then drove away after changing the tire without putting the Cup back in the trunk. They returned later and found it where they'd left it.

1962: The original bowl and collar of the Stanley Cup were retired and put on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but they were stolen in 1970. After seven years missing, an anonymous call led police to a back room of a Toronto cleaning store, where they found the items.

1996: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre had his child christened in the Stanley Cup after the Avs won it and Lefebvre got to keep the Cup for a day.

What's in a Name?

The Stanley Cup wasn’t always called the Stanley Cup. When it was originally purchased from a London silversmith in 1892, it was called the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup.

The Streak

No team has won the Stanley Cup five years in a row except for the Canadiens, who won it from 1956-60 under Toe Blake's coaching.

Lack of Dynasties

In the last seven seasons in which a champion has been crowned, seven different teams have taken home the Stanley Cup.

2010 Champion: Blackhawks


2008:Red Wings






Historic Playoff Formats

1917-18: Two-game, total-goals series for NHL championship; winner faced Pacific Coast Hockey Association champion in best-of-five series

1926-27: Two-game, total-goals series between second and third place teams faced first place team in two-game, total-goals series for division title; Winner of Canadian and American divisions faced each other in best-of-five series

1967-68: Winner of East and West divisions faced each other in best-of-seven series

1979-80:Four division winners earned automatic berths, top 12 teams remaining by record advanced to preliminary round, best-of-five series; quarterfinals, semifinals and finals were best-of-seven series

Current: Eight teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs -- three division winners and the next five highest point totals. Division winners get the highest seeds, according to points, and best-of-seven series are held in each conference. Conference winners face off for the Stanley Cup.

Career Playoff Scoring Leaders

The Great One: Wayne Gretzky is the all-time plaoff leader in goals, assists and points. He won all four of his Stanley Cups with the Oilers, and reached the finals two other times with the Oilers and Kings.

1. Wayne Gretzky: 382 points (122 goals, 260 assists)

2. Mark Messier:295 (109, 186)

3. Jari Kurri:233 (106, 127)

4. Glenn Anderson:214 (93, 121)

5. Paul Coffey:196 (59, 137)

Conn Smythe Trophy

The Conn Smythe Trophy, voted upon by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, has been awarded to the most valuable player to his team in the playoffs each year since its inception in 1965.

Only five players have won the award more than once, led by Patrick Roy, the only player to win it three times.

1. Patrick Roy: 3 (1986, 1993, 2001)

2. Mario Lemieux:2 (1991, 1992)

2. Wayne Gretzky:2 (1985, 1988)

2. Bernie Parent:2 (1974, 1975)

2. Bobby Orr:2 (1970, 1972)

Decisive Game 1

Stat: Game 1 winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup trophy 55 of 71 times (77.5 percent) since the NHL implemented a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Championship format in 1939.

Unbreakable Record?

Stat: The Canadiens scored a whopping seven goals against the Maple Leafs in the third period of Game 5 of the 1944 Stanley Cup Semifinals. The Canadiens shut out Toronto, 11-0, and the third-period goal total is the most ever in a period in the playoffs.

Bruins Video