It’s April, and that means different things to different people. To me, it means the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ice hockey is closer in my daily routine to brushing my teeth than watching some other televisions show. Hyperbole aside, the inaugural edition of yet another weekly article will focus on one of my favorite institutions. The fact this season is the 100th in league history just adds icing to the cake; this is a subject that was difficult to go into for me without writing a book. However, my goal is for readers with no knowledge of hockey to come away with some solid facts that may lead to watching a game.
Fun fact: the Stanley Cup trophy awarded to the NHL champion is older than the National Hockey League itself. The NHL was formed in an attempt to keep several teams playing during major financial difficulties of the National Hockey Association. In fact, the most successful franchise in NHL history was formed years prior in the NHA: the Montreal Canadiens.
The early years of the NHL also saw several cities receive franchises years before the ones known today were established. The St. Louis Eagles, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Philadelphia Quakers were all operating in the NHL before these cities saw permanent fixtures in the Blues, Penguins, and Flyers respectively.
The Stanley Cup
Okay, a brief history of sports greatest trophy is necessary when discussing professional hockey. The Stanley Cup is not trademarked or owned by the NHL, as it has existed long before the league. It is awarded to the NHL Champion, and each member of the organization is given a day with the cup. The lore of the Stanley Cup has to lead to some amazing stories about what has happened to the iconic trophy. It has been set on fire and thrown in rivers. Its has also been used to store food and has even served as a method of baptism.
Sports is about identity. Hockey remains the fourth most popular North American major sport, and yet, it has the greatest traditions. Nothing beats being a fan at a hockey game. Detroit fans are known to throw an octopus on the ice from time to time. You may see two guys get into a fist fight, and the ref will just let it happen. You can grow a playoff beard to support your favorite team as they go on a quest for a cup. A player scoring three goals in a single game will see a shower of hats fly onto the ice to show how much they are admired.
The NHL has something for everybody. They have a team that is one hundred years old, one that is beginning play next season, and one that is named after a Disney movie. I hope the first of many weekly brief history articles inspires you to broaden your horizons and look into something new.