thestar.com: Published on Thursday December 20, 2012
The cup is up for grabs — or, at least, it should be. That best serves what Lord Stanley of Preston wanted when he announced creation of the now-legendary trophy bearing his name.
Back in 1892 he noted the need for a prize because “there does not appear to be any outward sign of a championship at present.” And that’s precisely the situation we have today, with the National Hockey League and the players union locked in a contract dispute that threatens another hockey season.
There’s no end in sight to the 97-day lock-out. If it lasts another month all games will be cancelled. But rather than keeping the cup locked away, as in the lost 2004-05 season, a heartening effort is afoot to put it back in play.
A small group of hockey enthusiasts, mainly lawyers, has banded together to organize a tournament next year that would, potentially, award the Stanley Cup to the best amateur hockey team playing in Canada. If that happened, it would be a case of going back to the future — the Stanley Cup is older than the NHL and was originally awarded to a variety of amateur organizations. (Go Kenora Thistles, winners in 1907!)
Teams are being invited to register by Jan. 18 for the Spirit Challenge Cup, to be played a few months later, with proceeds to benefit amateur hockey in Canada. Two things could block this plan for reviving cup competition: the NHL and its players could reach a deal before the entire season is sacrificed, or the two trustees controlling Lord Stanley’s storied mug simply won’t play along.
These trustees pose a problem. Brian O’Neill and Scotty Morrison, both former NHL executives, have in the past said they won’t grant the cup to any team outside the league. O’Neill went so far as to say that would “demean the trophy.”
Far from it. Awarding the cup to the country’s best amateur team, when the NHL can’t play, is entirely in keeping with the trophy’s original goal. O’Neill and Morrison shouldn’t demean themselves, and Canada’s national game, by throwing that purpose aside to benefit their former league bosses.
Canadians are coming together and working on organizing an alternative Stanley Cup competition. If they’re successful, the cup should be awarded to the winner. After all, it’s our game, not the NHL’s. And the Stanley Cup isn’t a pawn to be sacrificed when billionaire team owners and millionaire players can’t reach a deal. O’Neill and Morrison should try to remember that.