November 19 – Rink Around The Rosie

Today’s factismal: The Stanley Cup has grown from seven inches tall to 35 inches tall; it would be even taller but for a rule change made in 1958!

Every sport has a championship, and every champion wins a trophy. Sometimes the trophy is a legacy from past champions, like the Indianapolis 500’s bottle of milk. Sometimes it is an individual award, like the Super Bowl rings. Sometimes it is unchanged from the first time it was awarded, like the America’s Cup’s “auld mug”. And sometimes it changes over time, like the Stanley Cup.

First awarded in 1893 to the champion amateur ice hockey team in Canada (which happened to be run by the Stanley family; conveniently enough, he was also the one to award the trophy), it became the symbol of professional hockey in 1915. Because it was originally intended to be used for just one year, the Stanley cup was fairly small – only about seven inches tall and eleven inches across, with a flat plate at the bottom where the name of every player, coach, and staff member on the winning team was engraved (another touch added by Stanley). When it was reused the next year, the new team’s information was added on. So it went for a few years until they ran out of room to add names.

The Stanley Cup in all its glory (Image courtesy J.delanoygabs)

The Stanley Cup in all its glory
(Image courtesy J.delanoygabs)

Being practical Canadians, the Stanleys simply had another ring welded onto the bottom of the original trophy and the new names were engraved on that. When the new ring ran out of room, the newly-formed professional leagues again added a new ring, giving the cup the nickname “stovepipe”. By 1958, there were eight rings of different sizes on the cup, which had gone from something easily held in one hand to a monster that took both hands to hold up. As a result, the NHL decided that no more rings would be added; instead, older ones would be “retired” and kept in a place of honor in the Hockey Hall of Fame. And so the Stanley Cup’s growth spurt ended and it has remained at 35 inches tall for the past half-century.

Though the Stanley Cup may be stable, there is some concern over whether or not the sport is. That’s because the backyard ice rinks that are a staple of Canada may be endangered by climate change. Some scientists think that warmer temperatures may reduce the number of backyard rinks, but they need data to test their idea. And that’s where you come in. If you’ve made a backyard ice rink, then register it on RinkWatch. By comparing the number of rinks every year, the scientists will be able to track the effect of climate change on a regional basis. If you’d like to participate, skate on over to:

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