As the NHL lockout continues to drive a wedge between owners, players and fans, the thought of another Stanley Cup championship not being contested is very real. The trustees responsible for the Stanley Cup need to make a momentous statement. With the historic Cup not being contested in 2005, it represented one of the darkest and most tragic moments in modern hockey history.
Back in 2005, Adrienne Clarkson (the Governor General of Canada) suggested having women’s hockey players competed for the coveted Cup. Her suggestions would lead to the formation of the Clarkson Cup, a championship that is currently contested by the franchises in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
With the Clarkson Cup having provided many historic moments (including a unique Canadian vs. American matchup in both 2009 and 2010), women’s hockey has proven that it is here to stay. The thought of women playing for the Stanley Cup in 2013 may not augment the same ridicule that the concept first aroused when it was introduced in 2005.
Some of the most historic moments in Stanley Cup history came in its earliest years. When the coveted title was considered a challenge cup (in which any team could claim a challenge to it), it brought some of the most unique teams in hockey history. The team from Dawson City that traveled for almost a month to challenge the Ottawa Senators may stand as the most intriguing challenger.
It is time for the Stanley Cup trustees to emerge from their ivory tower and restore the concept of a challenge cup. In channeling the spirits of teams from yesteryear, a tremendous round robin tournament could be held that would truly captivate and entertain hockey fans.
Between the 2013 winners of the Memorial Cup (junior hockey), Allan Cup (senior hockey, which features NHL alumni) and collegiate teams (NCAA and CIS), there are a handful of worthy teams for consideration. In that shuffle, the Clarkson Cup champions are worthy of consideration. Truly make it a challenge cup in which both men and women could play for it. The intrigue of women playing men for the Cup would bring with it TV ratings and worldwide press.
Should the Montreal Stars claim the Clarkson Cup in 2013, it would be their third consecutive title and fourth in franchise history. There is no question that the Stars would be worthy of Stanley Cup consideration.
In March of 2012, several Stars players (along with McGill Martlets members) played a group of NHL alumni at a Hockey Helps the Homeless event in Ottawa and defeated them. The month of December, 2012 saw the Stars participate once more against NHL alumni (along with famed actors from Quebec TV).
The Boston Blades are the other team that is a heavy favourite to challenge for the Clarkson Cup in 2013. Featuring many members of the United States National Team (Kacey Bellamy, Caitlin Cahow, Meghan Duggan, Molly Engstrom, Hilary Knight, Gigi Marvin, Molly Schaus). Along with one member of the Canadian National Team (Genevieve Lacasse), the Blades are talent-heavy and could easily challenge any men’s team from the NCAA.
Another Stanley Cup not being contested would be nothing short of a disaster with possibly long-term effects. The damage caused by the baseball strike in 1994 took many years to mend. Hockey fans, especially in Canada, may not be so forgiving if another Stanley Cup is taken away from them. Letting teams challenge for Lord Stanley’s Mug (which was the original concept behind the introduction of the trophy) is not only the right thing to do, it is the moral thing to do.
With landmark anniversaries including Title IX (40 years) and Manon Rheaume breaking the NHL gender barrier (20 years), it is also time to acknowledge the contribution that women have made to growing the sport and allow them the right to make their own challenge.