Even with lockout, beer leagues unlikely to compete for Cup
Mike Bolt, Keeper of the Stanley Cup, takes it off the ice after members of the Vancouver Angels novice C1 minor hockey team were surprised with it before their practice in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Saturday, December 29, 2012 9:00AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 29, 2012 9:12AM EST
With every NHL labour dispute comes rampant speculation: when will the two sides reach a deal, will the fans return and, perhaps most importantly, what to do with the Stanley Cup?
If the 2012-13 season is shelved for good -- and all signs point to that being the case -- it will mark the third time the hallowed trophy is not awarded. The lockout of 2004-05 kept new names from being engraved on it, as did the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19.
Just days before Christmas, Edmonton MP Brent Rathgeber floated the suggestion that the Cup be awarded to an amateur team if it turns out the professionals won’t be chasing their boyhood dream this season.
Rathgeber suggested that a national competition be held to determine Canada’s best non-professional outfit. Rathgeber pointed out on his blog that when then-governor general Lord Stanley donated the Cup back in 1893, the trustees’ original task was to award the trophy to the country’s top amateur team.
"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," Rathgeber writes.
"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?"
During the last lockout, a group of recreational players took their case to court, arguing that the Stanley Cup was not the NHL’s prize alone. The NHL has had control of the Cup since 1926.
In an out-of-court settlement, it was decided that the Cup’s trustees have the option of awarding the trophy to a non-NHL team when the league does not hold a championship game. However, they are not obligated to do so.
During the same lockout, in Feb. 2005, then-governor general Adrienne Clarkson suggested the Cup be awarded to Canada’s top women’s team. When that idea didn’t fly, Clarkson donated a trophy in her own name to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
In mid-December, one of four men entrusted to travel with the Cup when it leaves its perch in the Hockey Hall of Fame suggested a “mock” alternative to an NHL playoff could be held.
"I guess it would be exciting to try to have some kind of a mock tournament or something, where maybe somebody else might win it," Borrow told a reporter at a Stanley Cup-related event in Montreal.
"People have always dreamed about maybe winning it, even if they don't play at the NHL level. It would be kind of fun, I guess."
But Barrow pointed out that he is not a trustee, and so has no say in what happens to the Cup beyond its travel-related itinerary.
He also speculated that because it has been in the hands of the NHL for so long, some fans may not enjoy watching it be awarded to a beer-league franchise.
This fall, as the prospect of another lost season loomed, a current Cup trustee and former NHL vice president said despite the suggested alternatives, and the trustees’ leeway, the likelihood of the trophy being awarded to a non-professional team is slim.
“It's just not going to happen," Brian O'Neill told The Canadian Press back in September.
"The Stanley Cup should be awarded to the top National Hockey League team, which has been determined to be the top league in the world...
"Anything less than that would demean the trophy."