Tuesday, December 14, 2004

FREE STANLEY

An interesting story that has circulated around has been the story of the Edmonton group wanting to "free Stanley"! A group of fans in Edmonton want to make sure the Stanley Cup is awarded to someone this year, in the spirit of the original deed from Lord Stanley- that the Cup revert to its original purpose as a challenge cup for the top hockey team in Canada. Apparently these folks want to go to court to free the Cup from the clutches of the National Hockey League, and hold playoffs involving the top Canadian teams in the CHL and AHL etcetera.

Interesting concept, but the fact is that once professionalism entered the picture the Stanley Cup stopped being a challenge cup for all intents and purposes, and became the championship trophy of major-league professional hockey. And all these other leagues have their own trophies- the Calder Cup, the Memorial Cup, the Allan Cup. And there's likely to be controversy over who gets to compete for the Cup. Does the Original Stars Hockey League have a claim to it? Could a bunch of NHL all-stars get together and form a team at the last minute and compete for the Cup? What if these teams have American players? Or Europeans?! Hey, what if the WHA starts up soon?

The other thing these folks will have to explain is that in 1919 there was no awarding of the Stanley Cup because of a massive, deadly flu epidemic. They actually called off the deciding game of the Cup finals because of it. So there is actually precedent for skipping the awarding of a Stanley Cup in a particular year. Sorry, folks, but I'm afraid that Stanley Cup is gonna stay put right where it is, in the Hockey Hall of Fame, until these boneheads in the NHL get their act together. Besides, I don't want the Stanley Cup going to a bunch of minor-leaguers anyway. The best team in hockey is still out there, locked out.

UPDATE: There's a front-page editorial in the Wednesday edition of the National Post on freeing Stanley, and it talks a little more about the trustees' agreement with the National Hockey League and how it is contingent on the league being "operational". I would presume, though, that "operational" refers to the NHL being in business, as opposed to actually playing. But people still want to pursue this goofy idea of holding Stanley Cup playoffs with all these amateurs and other assorted squads. And Colby Cosh is a big proponent of freeing Stanley and he has plenty to say about it. But it sort of misses the point. These proposed Stanley Cup playoffs would be a travesty that would demean the "real" Stanley Cup playoffs- you know, the ones we've all come to know and expect. This would be like "replacement Stanley Cup playoffs."

I'm sorry, but as good as the London Knights are, they shouldn't be playing for the Stanley Cup. Period. And this whole idea of a "challenge cup"- wouldn't the Tampa Bay Lightning have a say in it? "Hey, it's our Cup, don't we get a say on the matter? It's not our fault we're locked out!"

Nice try, guys, but I don't think I'm that desperate to see the Stanley Cup awarded to the Whitby Dunlops. Those guys in league offices in Manhattan must be laughing at all of us goofy Canadians over this idea.

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