June 21, 2013
The Stanley Cup Championship Ring
The Stanley Cup ring. This is what they play for. The players do not get paid any salary during the Stanley Cup playoffs, though there is prize money for winning series. But aside from the moment of hoisting the Cup above your head and getting your name engraved on the chalice, it is championship ring that players forever cherish.
You can see in this photo (provided by HHOF's Kelly Masse on Twitter) that the rings have really evolved over the years.
In the back row are recent championship rings for Detroit, Pittsburgh and Anaheim. They are HUGE, and while they are amazingly and intricately designed when looked at up close, they are too big to really wear very often.
In the middle we see less gaudy versions from the 1961 Chicago Blackhawks and 1989 Calgary Flames.
The ring in the very front is very simple, but in my opinion the most interesting ring in the collection. You see, it dates back all the way to 1893 - the very first year the Stanley Cup was awarded!
Let's take a closer look.
It belonged to Billy Barlow of the Montreal AAA (Amateur Athletic Association). The AAA, also known as Montreal Hockey Club, were the first winners of the Stanley Cup back in 1893 - that's 24 years before the NHL even existed!
This ring resides on display at Hockey Hall of Fame. The only other 1893 ring known to still exist sold in 2009 at auction for about $60,000. It belonged to George Lowe.
I'm still trying to find much information about Mr. Barlow. Apparently he was a spectacular skater, blessed with agility and nimbleness unlike most of that era. He was instrumental in the Montreal's final win of the season over Ottawa to secure the Stanley Cup's inaugural championship. The following year Barlow was credited with scoring the first Stanley Cup-winning goal in history in the final playoff match of 1894. He actually scored twice in that game and was heralded as the top player of that.
You can read the actual newspaper account of the first Stanley Cup championship at Library and Archives Canada's website. Robert Lefebvre of Eyes On The Prize also has a good feature.