The Stanley cup finals is a series of hockey games that concludes the National Hockey League (NHL). The championship series determines the winner of the Stanley Cup, which is considered North America’s oldest trophy among professional sports.
However, the cup series was adopted from the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, and then the Governor-General of Canada donated the trophy in 1892. Initially, it was known as the Challenge trophy, which was played among Canada’s top-ranked amateur ice-hockey clubs. Usually, the champions keep the trophy to them until they lose their title to another club.
Furthermore, a champion from another league could challenge the current winner and could win the cup. Let’s take a peek at the Stanley Cup Finals history.
History of Stanley Cup Finals
As we have mentioned already, the Stanley Cup Finals Trophy is the oldest trophy in North America; it has a long, eventful history.
Montreal Hockey Club got the first-ever Stanley Cup, but without playing any Stanley Cup Finals formally. They won the cup following the win of the 1893 AHAC Season. After that, the team had to go through defending the championship title on both league and challenge games. However, challenge games were organized by the Stanley Cup trustees.
Until 1912, the challenges could only be played before a league or even during the season. After 1912, this rule was changed, and trustees imposed a new rule, which refers to playing challenges following the finishing of the regular season.
According to an agreement in 1913, NHL and Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) champions would face each other for the cup. However, the last cup challenge took place in 1914, which also inaugurates the first ‘World Series’ of ice hockey.
The World Series participants are the Stanley Cup winner and league champion of the National Hockey Association (NHA), Toronto Hockey Club, Victoria Aristocrats, and PCHA champion.
From 1914 onwards, East and West teams could get the trophy every other year, and it followed the NHA and PCHA rules. The cup trustees also agreed on that. During that time, games were being held among the top Canadian team. It was changed when Portland Rosebuds, a team from the USA, joined PCHA in 1914.
After that, the trustees issued a statement that the cup will be played among the world’s best teams.
After two years, Rosebuds played in the Stanley Cup finals, which made them the first American team to play the finals.
Later another American team, Seattle Metropolitans, won the Stanley Cup in 1917 as the first-ever American team. Following that season, NHA was dissolved, and the National Hockey League (NHL) was formed.
Montreal Canadiens and the Seattle Metropolitans reached the Stanley Cup Finals, but they had to cancel the series due to Spanish Influenza. It was the first time that the Stanley Cup was canceled.
Stanley Cup Champion’s format was changed in 1922, as the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL) was created. After that, three league champions became the Cup contender.
Later in 1924, WCHL and PCHA merged to form the Western Hockey League (WHL). Hence the championship converted to a single series.
Before the merger, Victoria Cougars won the 1924-25 Stanley Cup, and they became the last team to win the cup outside of the NHL.
WHL dissolved in 1926, and most of the WHL players moved towards the NHL. After that NHL became the only league to compete for the cup; although other leagues did challenge this, after 1926, no non-NHL team could play for the cup.
The NHL made an agreement with Cooper Smeaton, a Canadian ice hockey player, and P. D. Ross, a Canadian journalist, said that the NHL would take control of the Stanley Cup. Therefore, they could reject the challenges from other leagues. It implies that other leagues cannot play for the cup anymore.
However, in 2006 an Ontario Superior Court found that the 1947 agreement violated Lord Stanley’s conditions. After that, the NHL allowed other teams from other leagues to compete for the Stanley Cup. The court’s decision came out after the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
That’s how today’s Stanley Cup Finals have been structured.