Lesson #334: That Time the Stanley Cup Spent the Night in the Rideau

In 1905, the Ottawa Silver Seven (pre-NHL, so the team was made up of amateur players) won the Stanley Cup*, after which the team went boozing. Like victorious teams — and losing teams, I suspect — are wont to do. As a group of adrenaline-high, liquored up macho dudes aren’t usually the best decision-makers, their post-game festivities took a turn for the rather stupid when forward Harry Smith accepted a dare from his teammates to drop-kick Lord Stanley’s Cup into (or over, depending on what you read) the Rideau Canal. 

Now, I’m definitely not one to throw stones because I have been known to make my own stupid choices after a few beers,** but the men of the Silver Seven then promptly forgot all about Lord Stanley’s Cup and sauntered off — presumably to get more beer — without it. So it spent the night in the Rideau.

Smith went back the next morning to retrieve it.

Here’s the thing: there are varying reports about this. It’s January in Ottawa (remember, this is well before the days when hockey season ends in June). I’m pretty familiar with winter in Ottawa, and the Rideau freezes up pretty well; it’s a big thing to skate on it. So the likelihood that the Cup ended up at the bottom of the Rideau in the dead of winter is almost nil. The Hockey Hall of Fame’s page says it was pulled from the water. Sports Illustrated says it was retrieved from the dry bed of the canal. The Wiki mention of it on the Sens’ page cites Michael McKinley’s Hockey: A People’s History and says it was rescued from the surface of the ice. So…I guess go with whatever version you like? I’ll go with the one that makes the most sense. 

As an aside: I also learned that the Fourth Earl Grey was the Governor General of Canada at the time. As a tea-drinker and hockey fan, this amuses me — though the tea was not named for this particular one, but for his grandfather, the Second Earl Grey, who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain and Ireland in the 1830s. The Grey Cup, however, was named for this Earl Grey.

For more, read the Sports Illustrated article from before I was born. (See, Dad, I’m not “nearly old.” Jerk!***Or see if you can find McKinley’s book. The Hall of Fame’s reference is here. Or you can read the Wiki entry

*which, at the time, was just the sterling silver bowl that makes up the top of the modern trophy

**True story: I have a scar on the back of my left leg from the time I forgot there was a ditch on the other side of a barbed wire fence a friend and I had climbed over in the middle of nowhere in the southern state where I used to live so we could go climb a windmill in the middle of the night. I managed, in one jump, to rip a two-inch gash into my flesh from one of the barbs, damage my right ankle in a way that, to this day, doesn’t allow me to wear certain pairs of high heels, leave myself with a limp for two weeks, and require a tetanus booster. And that was only after three beers. Legally, I was still sober.

***Dear readers, please don’t think I say that with any sort of seriousness. My dad is awesome, and I love him very much.

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