If you follow ice hockey, then you’ll probably have heard of the Stanley Cup. It’s the trophy in the postseason that teams duke it out for. The Stanley Cup is the Super Bowl of hockey, but have you ever stopped and asked yourself who Stanley is? This is the tale of Lord Stanley of Preston, the man behind the legendary trophy.
Frederick Arthur Stanley was born in the United Kingdom on January 15, 1841. He was the 16th Earl of Derby and a leading politician in his native Britain. Stanley was an avid sports fan and in particular had a real love for horse racing, even creating his own stables in England. Later in his life, he moved across the Atlantic Ocean, becoming the sixth Governor General of Canada in 1888.
In line with his new role, he traveled the length and breadth of the country, falling in love with the beautiful landscape Canada offered. Whenever his schedule would allow it, Stanley loved to fish in Canada’s waters, and it became yet another sporting passion of his.
Lord Stanley moved his whole family to Canada, and it was where his children fell in love with a sport they probably never knew in the UK. Ice Hockey. His sons began to play this new sport in the amateur leagues in Ottawa. Soon Lord and Lady Stanley became avid hockey fans.
Stanley wanted Canadian hockey players to strive for something, so he gave the amateur game the Stanley Cup in 1892. In 1909, the cup had become so special to Canadian hockey players it was now for pros only. This came just a year after Lord Stanley passed away in 1908.
Stanley’s daughter, Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy, was instrumental in convincing her father to create the Stanley Cup and her influence on women’s hockey meant the Isobel Cup was created. The Isobel Cup is the NWHL equivalent of the Stanley Cup.
The Stanley Cup grew in importance and in 1926 it became the trophy every professional team in the NHL fought for. Thanks to Lord Stanley’s love and encouragement of sports in Canada, the cup bears his name and is the most highly sought after trophy in all of hockey. His contribution to hockey didn’t end there, and in 1945 he was inducted into the Ice Hockey Hall of Fame, recognized as an Honored Builder.
The 16th Earl of Derby
Stanley didn’t live out the rest of his days in Canada, despite his love for the new country. In 1893 Stanley’s term as Governor was due to end, but he was called home to his native England a few months before. His elder brother, Lord Stanley the 15th Earl of Derby, had passed away and it was the Canadian Governor’s role to succeed him.
Stanley has left behind a legacy both in Canada and the UK. His name is one of the biggest in hockey, but in the UK he was commemorated too. Parks, military colleges, and even an Australian street, were named after him.