Don't let Stanley Cup collect
Since the NHL won't be needing it this year, wouldn't it be
fantastic if hockey's top minor league teams could compete for the historic
Date: Tuesday, March 1, 2005
Source: Blake Sebring,
Even though the NHL season has been officially declared dead, that might not
mean there won't be a Stanley Cup winner this
Three men in Edmonton have started a "Free Stanley" campaign hoping to get
the NHL to relinquish the cup. When Lord Stanley donated the cup in 1892, they
say he intended it be awarded to the best team in Canada as a challenge cup. The
cup's trustees gave formal authority of the cup to the NHL in 1947.
Tom Thurston, Mark Suits and Michael Payne want the cup back so it can return
to the challenge format and be awarded to Canada's best team - amateur or
professional - this year. They have solicited legal opinions to aid their cause
and are even soliciting teams to submit challenges to the
Stanley Cup trustees on their Web site,
But they are thinking too small, way too small.
What would it mean to hockey if they expanded into a tournament to include
all the minor-league champions in North America?
After all, this isn't a Canada vs. United States thing, but a hockey issue,
and we're all part of the sport's culture.
What better way to prove that the sport is not limited to Canada, as so many
of its critics charge? Could you imagine a better forum to show the strength of
You could even take the top two teams from each minor league. Sure, that
would mean extending the season a little, but it would still last only as long
as the NHL playoffs in a normal year. The players would love to play, and the
owners should be all for it as well. There will never be an easier sell, and
fans from other teams that aren't even playing would drive in for games.
"I think it would be a chance to see the Stanley
Cup and just say that you played for it," Komets forward Dustin
Virag said. "I think it would be pretty cool. In a town like this, they'd love
Imagine the intensity of the games when players get their chance of a
lifetime at seeing their name on the Stanley
Everyone - players, ownership, fans - would be fired up, even if the games
lasted until June. Even the officials would be dying for a chance to call a
Stanley Cup game.
"That would be pretty cool to see which is the better league," Komets forward
Chris Grenville said. "How often do you get a chance to hoist the
Stanley Cup? You'd sell out everywhere. I can't
imagine it. I would do it in a heartbeat, and I'm sure everyone else in the
locker room would, too. That would be great."
This could answer the question once and for all which league - East Coast,
United or Central - is the top Class AA circuit in the sport.
To be a bit provincial, imagine the fun and nostalgia of a possible Fort
Wayne-Peoria or Fort Wayne-Toledo series.
The Internet bulletin boards would go bananas. And it's not a stretch to
imagine Las Vegas posting odds. ESPN would probably want to broadcast some
games, because it sure beats watching another pool or poker tournament.
Such a tournament is how the awarding of the Stanley
Cup started in the first place, so it would be appropriate. The
NHL champion played the Pacific Coast Hockey League champion for the cup from
1917 until 1926, when the PCHL dissolved.
There have even been similar disputes and controversies in the cup's history,
such as 1919 when no decision was reached on one winner.
Just think about how much such a tournament could mean for hockey, especially
in showing the NHL owners and players that the sport is bigger than they are.
As for the details, have former International and Central league Commissioner
Tom Berry run the tournament. No one has more respect or class in the world of
minor-league hockey, and he has experience from trying to set up a similar
tournament in the past among minor league champions. There would be plenty of
people wanting to help.
Sure, it's likely a team from the Class AAA American Hockey League would
probably win the tournament, but so what? Imagine how much fun it would be just
to be a part of this, even if your team gets knocked out in the first round. You
would have the story of a lifetime to tell your grandchildren about the time
your team played for the Stanley Cup.
Here in the UHL, we've already got some of the NHL players playing.
Now it's time to take a shot at what they play for.