At this point of the NHL lockout, there are more than a handful of fans and pundits predicting that the 2012-13 NHL season will be lost, flushed down the drain by the very people that stand to profit the most from getting the game on the ice. I don’t count myself among that group, but if that does happen and we do lose the entire season, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to tune into NBC in early June and watch hockey teams compete for the Stanley Cup.
In fact, if the NHL and NHLPA do not agree to terms and the 2012-13 season is lost, the trustees of the Stanley Cup have the right to allow non-NHL teams to play for the Cup.
The Stanley Cup has become the symbol of the NHL, but remember the award predates the formation of the NHL, with the first Cup winner being the 1893 Montreal Hockey Club of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada. Prior to the NHL basically taking ownership of the Cup, teams played challenge games to decide who would be the holder of what would become hockey’s holy grail, and the trustees of the Cup could allow teams to do so again.
The last time the NHL lost a full season was 2004-05, and if you are ever lucky enough to see the Cup in person, you will see that in place of the names of the members of the winning team, the phrase “SEASON NOT PLAYED” is engraved into the Cup for that year. Hoping to avoid this situation again, a group of beer-leaguers got together and made a case that the Cup should remain a challenge Cup, and somewhat surprisingly, they proved somewhat victorious.
The ruling that was made stated that the Cup trustees could “award the Stanley Cup to a non-NHL team in any year in which the NHL fails to organize a competition to determine a Stanley Cup winner.” The somewhat victorious part being the word could instead of the word would.
If the trustees wanted to send a clear message that they want to see hockey being played, then on the day the announcement is made that the 2012-13 season has been cancelled, the trustees should announce plans to award the Cup to a non-NHL team.
Should non-NHL teams play for the Stanley Cup if the 2012-13 seaosn is lost?
Sadly, the trustees seem to think that only NHL teams should play for Cup, Dan O’Neil, consultant to the NHL, acknowledged that the Cup could be awarded to a non-NHL club, but followed that up by saying, “But that’s not going to happen. No matter what, it’s not going to happen that the competition is for anyone else other than the National Hockey League."
“Scotty” Morrison added to O’Neil’s statement, telling ESPN, “[We] are adamant. We have that much respect for the NHL players. There’s only one group of players that’s ever going to play for the Stanley Cup and that’s the NHL players."
So, there you have it, it’s all about “respect,” a vague and laughable concept. Where’s that respect when it comes to the fans? Do the people who afford the players and owners the opportunity to make obscene amounts of money play into this at all? Where’s the respect for the individuals who are out of work due to the lockout, from the arena worker to the team equipment manager?
I would ask anyone associated with the NHL in any form to spare us the talk of respect while the NHL and NHLPA battle it out over money; the word rings sadly hollow at times like this.
I wholeheartedly agree that when the NHL is playing, only NHL teams should play for the right to raise the Cup, but when a season is cancelled, well, all bets are off. If there is no 2012-13 season, the Cup trustees should do the right thing and make the Cup a challenge Cup as it was when first presented by Lord Stanley of Preston.
The NHL does not own the Stanley Cup; someone deserves the right to raise it if there is no hockey this season.