ST-HUBERT, Que. – The Stanley Cup may have been created by the office of Canada’s governor general—but don’t count on the current office-holder to take the trophy back.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston chuckled when asked whether the prospect of yet another NHL season cancellation could prompt him to reclaim Canada’s beloved national relic.
There has been some speculation over whether the Cup could be awarded in an international tournament, or temporarily return to its 19th-century role as the prize for a top amateur team.
One federal MP, Edmonton’s Brent Rathgeber, has suggested the Cup could be awarded in a national competition to determine the best non-pro team in Canada. Also, one of the Cup’s full-time guardians recently said it would be “exciting” to have a mock tournament if the season is cancelled.
So The Canadian Press asked the Governor General, a former varsity star hockey player at Harvard, whether his office could step in.
Johnston laughed. Then he swiftly changed the subject.
“I want you to know that I’m going back to Ottawa shortly after this and I’ll be refereeing a hockey game of the generals and admirals of our Armed Forces against the defence attaches,” he told reporters.
“We’re warming up. We’ve got a replacement league there, if this thing doesn’t end.”
Johnston was at the Canadian Space Agency to watch the launch of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield into orbit on a TV broadcast from Kazakhstan.
A group of recreational players had suggested a replacement tournament during the 2004-05 lockout, when they argued in court that Lord Stanley’s mug wasn’t the exclusive property of the NHL.
An out-of-court settlement opened the door to the Cup trustees awarding the trophy to a non-NHL team someday. The trustees, however, have long-standing links to the NHL. One trustee, former NHL vice-president Brian O’Neill, recently said a non-pro champion would “demean” the trophy.
Created in England, the Cup was originally presented to the Canadian people in 1892 as a gift from then-governor general Lord Frederick Stanley—the representative to Canada of Queen Victoria.
In Canada, the governor general’s office represents the head of state and under the Constitution the elected cabinet technically reports to it.
The trophy trustees eventually handed over control of the Cup to the NHL under a 1947 agreement, which was revised in 2000 and which stated the Cup could not be awarded to a non-NHL team in the case of a lost season.
To be clear, the original Cup is sitting in an old bank vault in Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame. The New York-based NHL has been awarding its teams a replacement Cup that was created decades ago.