Watching the dysfunctional Press Conferences of the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association ten days ago, it became clear to me that if the respective sides cannot even agree which side is to blame for the stalled negotiations, there is little prospect that they will be able to resolve the financial issues which threaten the entire hockey season.
It will be a shame if there is no NHL hockey this season; but it will be a bigger shame if Lord Stanley’s hallowed mug does not get presented for only the third time in its glorious history.
The Stanley Cup does not belong to the NHL; it belongs to Canada. This is both historically and legally accurate. The Cup was donated in 1892 by the Governor General of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston, as the “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup”. It was to be awarded annually to the top ranking amateur ice hockey club in Canada.
The Stanley Cup is without question the most impressive looking trophy in all of sports. It and the Grey Cup are unique in that they are permanent awards. The Trophies for the Championship of the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball are all constructed each year and kept by the winner. But the Holy Grail of Hockey is a permanent prize and engraved with the name of every player, coach and manager who has ever earned it.
Despite the fact that the National Hockey League does not own the cup, it has been the de facto trophy of the NHL Championship since 1926 and the trophy du jour of the NHL since 1947. The NHL only uses the cup by agreement with the two trustees of the cup; however, it does not own the cup.
So unless the NHL and the NHLPA can resolve their seemingly intractable dispute, for only the third time in its history, there will be no Stanley Cup Champion in 2013. The Stanley Cup was not awarded in 1919 because of the Spanish Flu Epidemic. In 2005, the Cup was not awarded because, similar to the imminent demise of the current season, labour unrest meant there was no NHL Hockey in 2004-2005.
But why should the Holy Grail of Hockey collect dust simply because billionaire owners cannot work out their differences with millionaire players??
Consistent with Lord Stanley’s original intent regarding the awarding of the Stanley Cup, he established two trustees to administer this trust. It was made explicit that the trustees “shall maintain absolute authority over the Cup” and who it is presented to. When Lord Stanley appointed two trustees, he provided that when one dies or resigns the successor appoints the replacement. The current trustees are Brian O’Neill and Ian “Scotty” Morrison.
From 1893-1915, the Cup was awarded on a “Challenge” basis, where the top hockey team in Canada would be decided by the acceptance of a challenge offered from the current champion. The challenge rules were somewhat nebulous and constantly evolving but it became generally accepted that the challenge was open to any of the Canada’s Senior Hockey Associations and later that a challenger must be a champion from their own league or association.
So why not hold a national competition to determine the best amateur (or beer league) team in Canada? What would be more Canadian than having players, who play only for the love of the game, challenge for a cup that they would otherwise never even remotely be in contention for??
Such an argument was advanced by a group of Toronto recreational hockey players during the 2005 strike. They filed pleadings in the Ontario Superior Court challenging the notion that the NHL could exclusively award hockey’s greatest prize. And they won (sort of); in an out of court settlement, it was agreed that the Trustees have “the opportunity but not the obligation to award the Stanley Cup to a non-NHL team in any year in which the NHL fails to organize a competition to determine the Stanley Cup Winner.”
So if the 2012-2013 NHL Season is unsalvageable, I propose that the trustees exercise that very discretion and award the Stanley Cup to the best amateur or beer league or women’s or sledge hockey team in Canada. That would allow the trustees to fulfill their obligation to exercise their duties in the best interests of the original purpose of the trust, which was to promote amateur hockey in Canada.
How absolutely Canadian!!
If the lockout is not resolved by the end of January, perhaps a Private Member’s Motion…………………