The story of the Stanley Cup begins in 1892. Lord Stanley of Preston, who at the time was serving as Governor of Canada, purchased a silver bowl measuring 7.5 inches high and 11.5 inches across. This was the first ever official Stanley Cup. The first Stanley Cup championship was held in 1893. The very first winner of the Stanley Cup was the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association hockey club. Thus began the long line of tradition that has today become the most anticipated competition in hockey.
In its earliest years the Stanley Cup championship was comprised of amateur hockey teams. However towards the end of the 19th century, professional hockey became much more popular across North America and in 1910 the Stanley Cup would become a prize for professional hockey leagues. The Cup then came into the possession of the National Hockey Association (NHA). The NHA eventually folded, and through various consolidations, the National Hockey League (NHL) became the clear leader in the field and was granted ownership of the Stanley Cup.
The Stanley Cup playoffs have been played for the last 80 years and are one of the strongest professional sports traditions. This tradition has carried the league to heights that were unimaginable when the NHL originally formed. Over the long history of the Stanley cup, the Montreal Canadiens have been the most successful franchise. The Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup 24 times, which is almost an average of once every four years. Henri Richard, of the Montreal Canadiens, won a record 11 of the 24 Stanley Cup titles the team won.
The Stanley Cup itself has also undergone many changes since being designed by Lord Stanley. One of the original conditions upon which Lord Stanley donated the Cup was the winning club's name and year be engraved into a silver ring fitted to the Cup. That same tradition still holds today, where every member of the team is also engraved on the award on a silver band placed at the bottom of the Cup itself. There are more than 2,200 different names engraved on the Stanley Cup, including players, coaches and owners of the Cup-winning teams, and every 13 years, a new ring is added to the bottom of the Stanley Cup to add more names of the Cup's winners.
One of the more unique traditions of the Stanley Cup is winning teams and eventually every player on the winning team gets to spend a day with the Cup. There are many interesting stories associated with this privilege. In 1906 it was forgotten at a photography studio where it ended up a geranium planter before being retrieved by hockey officials. It has been a movie popcorn bucket, champaign glass, and water bowl for both dogs and horses, the latter the 1994 Kentucky Derby winner. The Cup has been left in the bottom of swimming pools, seen the interior of a few "gentlemen's clubs", and, on the other side of that scale, been used in the baptism of the Colorado Avalanche's Sylvain Lefebvre's first child.
Currently the Cup is accompanied by a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame during the player's excursions to ensure its safe return.