After Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby and Lord Stanley of Victoria, was appointed by Queen Victoria as Governor General of Canada on June 11, 1888, he and his family became highly enthusiastic about ice hockey. Stanley was first exposed to the game at Montreal's 1888 Winter Carnival, where he saw the Montreal Victorias play the Montreal Hockey Club. The Montreal Gazette reported that he "expressed his great delight with the game of hockey and the expertise of the players". During that time, organized ice hockey in Canada was still in its infancy and only Montreal and Ottawa had anything resembling leagues.
Lord Stanley's entire family became active in ice hockey. Two of his sons, Arthur and Algernon, formed a new team called the Ottawa Rideau Rebels. Arthur also played a key role in the formation of what later became known as the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA). Arthur and Algernon persuaded their father to donate a trophy to be "an outward and visible sign of the hockey championship".
So on March 18, 1892, at a dinner of the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association. Lord Kilcoursie, a player on the Ottawa Rebels hockey club from Government House, delivered the following message on behalf of Lord Stanley, the Earl of Preston and Governor General of Canada:
"I have for some time been thinking that it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion (of Canada)."
"There does not appear to be any such outward sign of a championship at present, and considering the general interest which matches now elicit, and the importance of having the game played fairly and under rules generally recognized, I am willing to give a cup which shall be held from year to year by the winning team."
Shortly thereafter, Lord Stanley purchased a silver cup measuring 7 ½ inches high by 11 ½ inches across for the sum of 10 guineas (approximately $50); appointed two Ottawa gentlemen, Sheriff John Sweetland and Philip D. Ross, as trustees of that cup; and set the following preliminary conditions to govern the annual competition:
The first winner of the Stanley Cup was the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) hockey club, champions of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada for 1893. Ironically, Lord Stanley never witnessed a championship game, nor did he ever present the Cup. Although his term as Governor General ended in September 1893, he was forced to return to England on July 15. In April of that year, his elder brother Edward Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby died, and Stanley succeeded him as the 16th Earl of Derby. Nevertheless, the quest for his trophy has become one of the world's most prestigious sporting competitions.
Like the Grey Cup, awarded to the winner of the Canadian Football League, the Stanley Cup is engraved with the names of the winning players, coaches, management, and club staff. The Stanley Cup is the only trophy in professional sports that has names engraved upon its chalice as well as its rings and base.
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