The Stanley Cup is one of the hardest trophies to win in all of sports. After 82 games in the regular season, teams need to battle through four rounds of grueling hockey against the league’s best competition. The intensity, speed, and physicality of the NHL playoffs continue to increase until they award the trophy. This demanding test is what makes the Stanley Cup so revered and sought after. This award that so many aim to win has plenty of mystique around it, including several nicknames that people call it. Here’s a guide to the many nicknames for the Stanley Cup.
Lord Stanley’s Cup
Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, the trophy’s namesake, and Canada’s governor general from 1888 to 1893 when the territory was under English rule, was a British politician who, in 1892, bought what was then a much smaller award and donated it to be given to the champion amateur hockey team in Canada each season. Lord Stanley became a fan of the game by watching it at an exhibition during a carnival in Montreal a few years earlier. Just as people still get hooked on the game today, one viewing of the sport made Stanley a lifelong fan.
This simple purchase over 100 years ago kickstarted a tradition that continues to grow in popularity. Although the trophy handed out today isn’t the same one Stanley purchased all those years ago, which actually now resides at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Lord Stanley’s Cup still carries a mystique and aura around it. The nickname “Lord Stanley’s Cup” also adds a layer of elegance to discussions about the silver- and nickel alloy-plated trophy, connecting its royal past to the present.
Many people simply and reverentially refer to the Stanley Cup as “The Cup.” Anybody who follows the game of hockey needs no explanation as to what this phrase means. Come June of every year, fans wait nervously in anticipation to see whether NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is going to hand “The Cup” to their favorite team in front of a packed arena after winning the last of four best-of-seven series against stiff competition.
This shorthand phrase is also a favorite among marketing teams that create hockey content, as it’s terse, catchy, and self-explanatory. Any commercial that fans see about the NHL playoffs focuses on players, teams, cities, and countries closely following the chase for The Cup. Whether it’s a long-time veteran of the NHL who hasn’t won The Cup yet or the entire country of Canada, which has waited 29 long years for a team within its borders to win The Cup, everyone wants the award, but few are lucky enough to win it.
There have been many teams that have gone on long streaks without winning The Cup. The St. Louis Blues just won their first championship in franchise history in 2019, breaking a 52-year drought without winning. Toronto is now on an active 55-year drought, as one of the most legendary teams with arguably the sport’s most rabid fan base hasn’t won since 1967. This agony over not winning The Cup illustrates clearly how difficult it is to win and how important it is for teams and cities to cherish it when they do break through to win it.
The Holy Grail
The Holy Grail is a mythological symbol stemming from tales about King Arthur that’s said to give any holder of the relic great powers. Many movies, books, and paintings depict people attempting to find this rare item. To fans, players, and managers in the hockey world, the Stanley Cup is just as important — and as elusive — to secure.
The game of hockey emerged in Canada, and to many Canadians, as well as several other diehard fans around the world, their national pastime and its trophy are often discussed in religious or mythological terms. As if to prove that point, a few players have even had their children baptized in the top of the Stanley Cup after winning it. While it may seem humorous to call this trophy the “Holy Grail,” to many within the hockey world, the pursuit of the Stanley Cup is no laughing matter.
Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup
This was the first name of the trophy before it became known as the Stanley Cup. When Lord Stanley purchased the first trophy, it wasn’t yet referred to as the Stanley Cup. This would come later, as professional leagues took over the distribution of the trophy and decided to honor its purchaser.
Early on, however, while amateur teams still competed for the award in Eastern Canada, the tournament among them was called the Dominion Hockey Challenge. Canada was known as a dominion of England at the time, a term that meant a self-governing nation owned by the British. Therefore, the founders of the tournament and its trophy selected this term to reference the territory in which it occurred. The vast majority of hockey fans don’t refer to the trophy by using this nickname, but it’s a vital part of the beautiful award’s history.
Lord Stanley’s Mug
The top of the Stanley Cup looks like a bowl or mug, making it a perfect, albeit maybe too large, drinking vessel. Many players, coaches, and management professionals, as well as their friends and family, have done just that. Every year after the trophy is handed to the victorious team, all personnel working for the championship squad get to take the Stanley Cup around for a day in a location of their choosing. They typically take advantage of this relatively new policy, which started in 1995, by celebrating it with people they love.
As a result, there have been several instances of Stanley Cup imbibing. Kids have drunk chocolate milk out of the trophy, it has served as a cooler at parties, celebrating family members of players have chugged beer out of Lord Stanley’s Mug, it has operated as a convenient bowl for an ice cream sundae, and a player even filled the trophy with dog food and let his pup eat out of the top. Therefore, “Lord Stanley’s Mug” is a fitting nickname for the Stanley Cup.
The Greatest Trophy in Sports
While this nickname for the Stanley Cup is tough to prove, many people in the hockey world refer to the trophy with this moniker. Besides many believing the NHL playoffs are the most grueling in sports, which makes it the most difficult to win, the trophy itself is also pretty impressive. Standing at just under 3 feet tall and weighing about 35 pounds, the award is one of the largest in worldwide athletic competitions.
The ceremony in which they present the award on the ice to the winning team immediately after clinching victory has become a fan favorite event. Bettman, along with The Cup’s handler, Phil Pritchard, whose sole job is to ensure the safety of the trophy, carries the award out to a stand where Bettman gives a speech and then hands the Stanley Cup to the captain of the winning team. Every member of the winning team then gets a few precious seconds with the trophy, lifting the award above their heads and shouting in relief that they’ve emerged victorious.
The Stanley Cup is also rare in the fact that each player who has ever won is featured on the trophy for a certain period of time. Because it’s the only trophy in sports where every winning player is featured on it, the bands with names etched onto it are retired when there’s no longer room for them and are placed in the Hockey Hall of Fame. This dedication to honoring champions also makes it a unique trophy, earning it the grand nickname of “The Greatest Trophy in Sports.”
For a trophy with so much history and appeal, it’s no wonder that it has so many nicknames attached to it. No matter what people call the Stanley Cup and how much animosity can arise among rival fan bases whose teams are vying for it, all hockey fans are in agreement that this trophy is truly special. Fans can find Stanley Cup memorabilia and other sports collectibles, including officially licenses sports apparel for all leagues, at Fanatics.