With the Stanley Cup Finals in full swing, I thought it would be interesting to re-visit the history surrounding the trust that holds the Stanley Cup.

According to this article, upon Lord Stanley of Preston being appointed Governor General of Canada by Queen Victoria in 1888, both him and his family became enamoured with hockey.  So much so, that he created the ‘Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup’ to be held year to year by the championship hockey team in the Dominion of Canada.

To ensure the Cup remained true to Lord Stanley’s intention, he settled a charitable trust, with the Cup being the trust property.  He appointed two trustees to administer the trust, and set out these initial trust terms:

  1. The winners shall return the Cup in good order when required by the trustees so that it may be passed to future winning teams;
  2. Each winning team, at its own expense, may have the club’s name and year engraved on a silver ring fitted on the Cup;
  3. The Cup shall remain a challenge cup, and should not become the property of one team, even if won more than once;
  4. The trustees shall maintain absolute authority in all situations or disputes over the winner of the Cup; and,
  5. If one of the existing trustees resigns or drops out, the remaining trustee shall nominate a substitute.

So, to answer the question – the NHL does not own the Cup.  Nevertheless, the NHL was able to reach an agreement with the trustees in 1947 where, amongst other things, it obtained exclusive rights to award the Cup.

However, as a result of legal proceedings commenced by a recreational league hockey team during the last NHL lockout, the agreement was varied to allow the trustees to award the cup to a non-NHL team should the NHL fail to organize a competition.

Noah Weisberg

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