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Stanley Cup came full circle during centennial season

by John Kreiser

Many believe the 1992-93 NHL season was among the finest staged in the League's history. From the addition of two teams through expansion, to the sudden prominence of European players, to the heroics of Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux, to the crowning of Montreal as Stanley Cup champions, the season was full of memorable moments. On its 20th anniversary, will spend the year looking back at the key moments of that '92-93 season to see if it may indeed be the NHL's Greatest Season.

The most famous trophy in sports spent much of its 100th anniversary season on the road. In the end, though, the Stanley Cup ended its centennial season right back where it started a century earlier.

In 1992-93, the NHL celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Stanley Cup by putting the trophy on tour. The Cup was made available for visits to all 24 teams, as well as numerous non-NHL markets -- befitting a "people trophy."

John Kerr, the executive director of NHL Anniversaries, said, "We want people across North America to continue to have the opportunity during the centennial year."


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The Cup's 100th anniversary was celebrated on the ice as well. All players wore a specially designed Stanley Cup Centennial patch, and all pucks used throughout the '92-93 season carried the Centennial logo. The League named Hall of Fame members Henri Richard, Bernie Parent and Billy Smith as "special ambassadors."

That's a lot of hoopla for a trophy that originally cost less than $50 and is named after someone who never saw it -- ironically, by 1993, engraving the names of the winners cost 20 times the original price of the Cup.

The original bowl was donated by Lord Stanley of Preston, who was then Governor General of Canada and by 1892 had become a hockey fan. His Lordship was preparing to return to England upon the expiration of his term, and he felt the Cup would help perpetuate his memory.

The original bowl was made of silver; it was 7.28 inches in height and 11.42 inches in diameter. The current Stanley Cup, topped with a copy of the original bowl, is made of a silver and nickel alloy; it is 35.25 inches tall and weighs 34.5 pounds.

Oddly enough, the 100th anniversary of the Stanley Cup celebrated the championship awarded to the Montreal A.A.A., whose affiliated Montreal Hockey Club had finished first in the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada -- a playoff-less formula that would be like awarding the Cup to the regular-season champion today.

The five-team organization was regarded by the Cup's trustees as the best league in Canada. The AHAC season ended March 17, 1893, with the Montreal A.A.A. having won seven of its eight games; the club was deemed the Cup winner because it had "defeated all comers during the late season, including the champions of the Ontario Association" (Ottawa).

Of course, by its 100th anniversary, the Stanley Cup had gone through a number of changes, physically and in terms of what it represents.

Lord Stanley intended for the trophy to be presented to the best amateur team in Canada. But as interest in the sport grew and crowds continued to increase, teams started to pull out all the stops to bring in as much talent as possible. Within two decades of its inception, professional teams were the only ones competing for the Cup (the Allan Cup is now given to Canada's top amateur team).

Beginning in 1894, competition for the Cup was done via a challenge format -- any team could issue a challenge, with the two trustees deciding which challengers were worthy of the chance to play for the Cup. The National Hockey Association, forerunner of today's NHL, took control of the Cup in 1910, with the NHA champion playing the champion of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association.

The NHL supplanted the NHA in 1917, and an East-West format was used until 1926, when the Western Hockey League (the result of a merger between the PCHA and the Western Canada Hockey League) went out of business, leaving the NHL as the only professional league competing for the Cup, as is still the case today.

By the late 1940s, the Cup had grown from the original bowl to a tall, cigarlike, two-piece trophy that split at the top of the wide barrel -- the top part was presented to the Cup-winning captain while the barrel remained on the presentation table.

In 1947, the Cup was remodeled into a trophy similar to what we know today, and in 1958, the modern, one-piece Cup made its debut. The original bowl became too brittle and was finally retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969; in 1994, a duplicate Cup was made so there is always one in residence at the Hall of Fame.

The current Cup consists of a bowl and a body with five bands to permit the engraving of the names of each year's Cup winner. Each band holds 13 teams; as they fill up, the oldest one is retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame and a new one is added. The most recent band was added in 2004.

One hundred years after it was first awarded, the Stanley Cup ended its centennial season back where it started -- in Montreal, where the Canadiens celebrated their 23rd NHL championship after defeating the Los Angeles Kings in a five-game Final. The Cup had made a full circle and come back to where it all began.

Part 2: Stanley Cup errors through the years

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