Here's Who The Stanley Cup Is Really Named After

Every summer, hockey fans across North America tune in to watch the culmination of the previous year's iteration of a winter sport. Ice Hockey is the most popular sport in Canada, according to Neo Prime Sport, and although it's not the top sport in the U.S.A., it's still a big deal. And since the National Hockey League, which holds its finals every year at this time, includes teams from both the U.S. and Canada, the championship matters in both countries.

Unlike the championship process in Major League Baseball or the NFL, the competition for determining the winner of an NHL season is referred to by the name of the trophy the players are striving toward. No one ever talks about the race for the Vince Lombardi trophy (the Super Bowl winner's prize, in the NFL) or the quest for the Commissioner's Trophy (Major League Baseball), but hockey players are, colloquially, on a quest for the Stanley Cup (pictured above). The trophy is named for a real man, a famous politician who never played a game of hockey, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia, and wasn't even Canadian, but was a huge fan of the sport.

Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley

At least ceremonially, Canada is governed by a Governor General, appointed by the monarch of the United Kingdom. The governor general serves as the crown's representative, according to the Governor General's Office. British politician Frederick Arthur Stanley was offered that job in 1888, according to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, and he eagerly accepted, arriving in Quebec by that summer.

In 1889, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia, Stanley saw his first ice hockey game in Montreal. He immediately became a fan, and three of his children took up the sport, playing at the amateur level. In 1892, he donated a silver chalice that would serve as a visual reminder of the importance of hockey, and sports in general, to Canada. "There does not appear to be any such outward sign of a championship at present, and considering the general interest which matches now elicit, and the importance of having the game played fairly and under rules generally recognized, I am willing to give a cup which shall be held from year to year by the winning team," he said at the time. The prize was originally intended to be awarded to the winner of amateur championships, according to the Governor General's Office, but since 1926, when it was absorbed into the NHL, it has been awarded to the winner of that league's championship.

The Stanley Cup's rules and traditions

Unlike many other professional sports trophies, the Stanley Cup is the same trophy year after year, according to the National Hockey League. There isn't a new one manufactured each year for the most-recent winners; instead, the previous year's winners give the same trophy to the next winners. As such, the same cup has been traveling around North America, and the world, for decades. The trophy has turned up at the White House, has been used as a baptismal font, has been damaged — probably more than once — and according to BleacherReport, was used as a temporary cradle for a player's infant daughter, who promptly pooped in it.

The names of the winners of the championship team are engraved on the object. There have been misspellings that were corrected; others remain. As the rings fill with names of champions, they're retired and replaced (per the Hockey Hall of Fame).