Friday, February 18, 2005

Game over! Game on! Free Stanley!

After a long, wasting illness, the patient has expired: The 2005 NHL season has finally been officially cancelled. For the first time since 1919, when the championship series was halted due to a worldwide influenza pandemic, the Stanley Cup will not be awarded. Or will it? Recent reports indicate that the season may be uncancelled tomorrow. Maybe the Cup will be awarded this year, after all.

If the Free Stanley movement has anything to say about it, it definitely will. And not necessarily to an NHL team, either, if that league can't get its act together.

The Edmonton-based movement's point -- and it's a compelling one -- is that Lord Stanley originally awarded his cup to the Dominion of Canada in 1892 under the condition that the team holding the cup defend it against any challenge made by the champion of any league playing in Canada. For the first few decades of its existence, it was battled over by a diverse assortment of amateur, collegiate, and professional teams, including challengers such as Queen's University, the Rat Portage Thistles, the Dawson City Nuggets, and the Toronto Trolley Leaguers.

By 1947, the cup's trustees ceded control of it to the NHL under the conditions that the league maintain its status as having the highest standard of play in the world and that a challenge for the cup be made every year. Now the NHL isn't holding up its end of the deal, so in theory, the deal is off.

This means that the trustees are entitled to make the big silver bowl a challenge cup once again. According to Lord Stanley's directions, the champion teams from leagues such as the American Hockey League, the East Coast Hockey League, the United Hockey League, and the Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey are entitled to make a challenge for the cup, as are the winners of the Memorial Cup (awarded to the winners of a tournament involving the champions of the Ontario Hockey League, the Western Hockey League, and the Quebec Major Junior League, plus a host team) and the Allan Cup (competed for by Senior AAA amateur teams) and the Canadian Interuniversity Sport champions.

Will the NHL's lawyers let this happen? Not if they can help it. But the Free Stanley movement has an almost unassailable case, and if they can push their point to its logical conclusion and convince the trustees to fulfill Lord Stanley's mandate, we could very well see the Rochester Americans take on the London Knights for the Stanley Cup. Or hockey wunderkind Sidney Crosby could get a chance to hoist the cup as a member of the Rimouski Oceanic before his long-awaited entry into the NHL draft even takes place. In fact, nothing in Lord Stanley's directions seems to prohibit a women's team from challenging for the cup (if only because he probably never conceived of the idea), so it's possible that Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette, Cassie Campbell, and the rest of the Calgary Oval X-Treme (who currently hold a dominating 18-0-0-0 record in the Western Women's Hockey League standings) could mount a challenge.

I'd love to see it. It would breathe new life into the game of hockey. Let's take back Lord Stanley's cup and let players who want to play the game drink champagne out of it this year.


Blogger SadPunk said...

Well, I'm not a hockey fan, but I'm an insane Atlanta Falcons fan (NFL), and I commend you on your accepting attitude toward the possibility of major readjustment to your favorite sport.

2/19/2005 03:24:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Lynn said...

Well, it's obvious that my favorite sport needs major readjustment. Or at least, the NHL does. I myself have never really gotten into American football, but it seems pretty obvious that the NFL is an organization that has its act together, and the NHL could learn from it.

I should say that I'm not necessarily in favour of making the Stanley Cup a challenge cup permanently, as the Free Stanley movement would like to do. But I'd like to see the cup awarded this year at least, so I say make it a challenge cup until the NHL is prepared to drop the puck once again.

I've been watching as much of the AHL, the OHL, the WHL, and the QMJHL as I can find on TV, and there's good hockey out there to be seen. The London Knights are ridiculously dominant in the OHL right now, having started the season with a record 31-game unbeaten streak. And then of course, there's Sidney Crosby. The kid's incredible. It's still a great game.

2/19/2005 03:05:00 PM  

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