NHL Doesn't Actually Control the Stanley Cup Like Fans Think

The Stanley Cup is a master of illusion. Fans don't think what they're seeing is the original. Where does the cup travel to and who owns it?

Robin Hill-Gray - Author

May 2 2022, Published 1:59 p.m. ET

Stanley Cup
Source: Getty Images

Stanley Cup appears in New York

For the NHL, no award matters more than the Stanley Cup. Every season, players hope they will be the ones skating around the area sharing the trophy with their fans. It may be easy to assume that a new trophy is awarded every year much like MLB players receiving a new World Series ring, but that isn't the case. Who owns the Stanley Cup?

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The Stanley Cup has come a long way and since its humble origins, three replicas have been created. The cup that fans see their favorite player skate around with after winning the championship isn't the original Stanley Cup. So, who has the original, and does it ever move? It does, but not the way you might think.

fan looks at cup
Source: Getty Images
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Is the Stanley Cup a traveling trophy?

The Stanley Cup probably has more frequent flier miles than the average traveler. The Presentation Cup travels between 300 and 325 days a year. The Stanley Cup travels to various cities, states, and even countries for appearances and events. The Cup that travels isn't the original cup, but rather the presentation cup.

Who owns the Stanley Cup?

To the surprise of many, the NHL doesn't actually own the Stanley Cup. The Stanley Cup was donated in 1892 by Sir Fredrick Arthur, Lord Stanley of Preston. According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the trophy was meant to be given to the "Championship hockey club of the Dominion of Canada." There are three cups, the original Dominion Challenge Cup, the Presentation Cup, and the Hockey Hall of Fame Cup.

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As one can assume, the original cup had to be retired. The presentation cup is the one that fans see players skate around with after winning and the hall of fame cup is also denoted as the permanent cup. According to CNN, it wasn't until the early 1900s that the NHL was formed and took control over how games were played and how people won the Stanley Cup. However, the ownership of the cup wasn't questioned until 2005.

player hoists trophy
Source: Getty Images
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In 2005, the Stanley Cup finals were canceled. In 2005, the league experienced a lockout after disputes over an unsettled collective bargaining agreement. The lockout lasted for 10 months and resulted in the Stanley Cup not being awarded for the first time since 1919. It was reported that the lockout pushed fans to file a lawsuit against the trustees. The point of contention was that fans felt that if the NHL canceled playoffs, a team outside the league should be able to play for it.

The time period revealed that even though the NHL had taken control of how the games competed for the trophy, the league wasn't granted ownership of the trophy. The ultimate control of the Cup rested with the trustees. The two current trustees are Brian O'Neill and Ian Morrison, appointed in 1987 and 2002, respectively. Previous trustees served until their death.


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