There have been only two years in its long and storied history that The Stanley Cup has not been issued. In 1919 because of a Spanish Flu epidemic and in 2004 when the NHL locked out for a full season.
In the lockout season, when it looked like the league may not crown a champion, the NHL was taken to court over their de jure ownership of the Stanley Cup, and lost – thereby now being a precedence set that if the NHL were to not play another full season, the Stanley Cup would be given to another leagues champion.
Two words on that: OH NO. Can you see it happen? The NHL has another labor stoppage that threatens the playoffs and some beer league moron decides his team should make a bid to get their names on the Stanley Cup for that year. Talk about hundreds of years of history flushed down the toilet.
For those of you who listen in to our weekly live Podcast, Rink Side Rants, you may have heard us discussing what another year without hockey could do to the NHL. There are many that believe the league could not recover from another labor dispute, and would for all intents and purposes close its doors.
Where then, would Lord Stanley rest his hallowed head from season to season; and who should be crowned Stanley Cup Champion year in and year out? My suggestion – return the Stanley Cup to the good old fashioned challenge trophy like it was originally designed, with a minor twist (again, so no beer league moron can get his name on the most hallowed trophy in all of sports).
The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) already has the Memorial Cup. The Memorial Cup is a round robin style tournament of the three leagues that make up the CHL – the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL. There are four teams that play for the right to lift the Memorial Cup, the three league champions and the host city for the tournament.
If the NHL should fold its doors, the Stanley Cup should be treated in the same manner as the Memorial Cup – at least for the remaining professional teams in North America. Who would get the invite? Read on!
The top three major professional leagues should all get an equal chance at playing for the Stanley Cup, instead of one league taking sole control over the trophy.
The American Hockey League (AHL). The Calder Trophy Winner would get a bid in the Stanley Cup Champions Tournament. The AHL will probably become the top league by default – but there is no point in diluting the history and meaning behind the Calder Trophy.
The East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). The Kelly Cup winners from the ECHL.
To round out the three teams – The Central Hockey League’s Ray Miron’s President’s Cup winner would join the circle.
If you wanted to complete the fourth team to make it truly like the Memorial Cup, I would propose that a host city be selecting from another professional league along the same level – and add it to the mix. Leagues to select from are the Champions of The Southern Professional Hockey League, The All American Hockey League, The Ligue Nord-Americaine and the newly founded Federal Hockey League.
Obviously to include one of the lesser leagues into the mix they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they could compete against the three premier leagues.