It’s our game, not the National Hockey League’s.
And it’s our cup, not some lump of silver to be locked away at the discretion of the millionaire owners who run the NHL.
But, somehow, that doesn’t seem to matter.
With the league and its players locked in yet another caustic labour dispute, there’s a very real chance of replaying the 2004-05 hockey season — the season that never was. That’s when feuding players and team owners did what even the Great Depression and the Second World War couldn’t do: they erased an entire winter of play and left the Stanley Cup without a claimant.
For the record, the only other year the cup wasn’t awarded was during the 1919 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed more than 20 million people around the world. So congratulations, players and owners: you have something in common with a toxic virus.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Even if stubborn players and grasping owners fail to reach an agreement in time to save the next NHL season, the Stanley Cup can — and should — be awarded.
The trophy isn’t owned by the league. The NHL didn’t exist in 1892 when the cup was donated by then Gov. Gen. Lord Stanley of Preston as a prize for Canada’s top hockey team.
Early on, it was won by a variety of amateur organizations, including the Kenora Thistles, Winnipeg Victorias and the Montreal Shamrocks.
We can’t say for sure, but we’d venture a guess there weren’t many millionaires on the ice in those days.
Today the cup is controlled by two trustees, Brian O’Neill and Scotty Morrison, both former NHL executives.
And even the league has conceded that they have the authority to grant this prize to some worthy team outside the NHL — to the country’s top amateur team, for example, or to the winner of a special Stanley Cup tournament.
It’s up to them.
Continuing to award the cup would serve Canadians well, highlighting our national game while showing NHL players and owners that the hockey world doesn’t revolve around just them.
But the Canadian Press reports the two trustees have no intention of doing any such thing. O’Neill is quoted saying it would “demean the trophy” to award it outside the NHL.
In fact, the opposite is true.
What’s demeaning is the way a greedy league and its truculent players have callously tossed aside the concerns of fans, children who admire hockey heroes, and the many non-millionaires who also make a living from the game, whether by selling souvenirs or waiting on tables at a sports bar.
If the NHL and its players succeed in destroying yet another season, they will prove themselves unworthy of the cup.
Rather than “demeaning” the trophy, taking the Stanley Cup beyond the league would be the best way to stay true to its best traditions.
An editorial from the Toronto Star.