It's No Cup of Tea Being a World Class Trophy: Shedding Precious Metal Tears with Sports' Priceless Prizes


The most cherished and recognizable cups in sports may be symbols of championship glory but over the years they have endured a litany of unfortunate events.

The most cherished and recognizable cups in sports may be symbols of championship glory but over the years they have endured a litany of unfortunate events. If the Stanley Cup, Grey Cup and FIFA World Cup could talk they could spend weeks on Oprah spilling gallons of precious metal tears as they recounted their sob stories. They’ve been abandoned, kidnapped, kicked, lost, stolen, forgotten, battered—even head-butted. There is a dark side to being a priceless prize.

411- Standing just under 3ft tall and tipping the scale at 35 lbs, hockey’s holy grail is a whole lot of mug. Crafted in Sheffield England, the silver Cup was purchased by governor General Lord Stanley for 10 guineas ($ 48 Canadian) in 1892 to be awarded to Canada’s champion hockey team. In addition to engraving the team name and year of the Stanley Cup victor on the fitted bands that support the chalice’s crowning bowl, the names of the winning individual players, coaches, and management are also etched into Stanley’s silver skin. It takes thirteen years to fill up a band at which point the oldest ring is then retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame so that the Cup maintains its iconic figure.
Ultimate Champion: The Montreal Canadiens 24 Wins

911-Possesion of the Stanley Cup has inspired plenty of eccentric behavior. Hockey’s most sought after piece of hardware has been punted into the Rideau canal by members of the Ottawa Silver Sevens, used as snack bowl for 1994 Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin, an ashtray for King Clancy, and a baptismal font for Sylvain Lefebvre’s daughter. It’s shared stages with strippers, been submerged in both Patrick Roy’s and Mario Lemieux’s swimming pools and purportedly used as a chamber pot by the 1940 New York Rangers. Many players have invited the cup into their bed and Steve Yzerman even showered with Stanley. Probably the biggest indignity the Cup suffered was being abandoned by the Montreal Canadiens. This happened on two occasions. In 1906 after posing for pictures with the Cup, the Canadiens absentmindedly left Stanley behind in the photographer’s studio. When they came back for it later, Stanley had been reduced to a flowerpot full of geraniums. Then in 1924 the Canadiens bus blew a tire en route to a party at Leo Dandurand's place and after making the repair they drove off leaving the Cup on the side of the road.


411-In 1909 Lord Albert Grey, Canada’s ninth governor general donated the sterling silver Grey Cup to recognize the top amateur rugby football team in Canada. Football was Grey’s second sport of choice. He had hoped to glorify amateur hockey but Sir Montague Allan had beat him to it with the Allan Cup. The gridiron goblet stands 33 inches high and weighs 34.7 pounds. The original sticker price was $48. The CFL club that wins the Grey Cup (since 1954 the cup has been awarded to the CFL champion) is entitled to keep the trophy for two months and it is up to the team to decide how to divvy up the players time with it.
Ultimate Champion: The Toronto Argonauts 15 Wins

911-The Toronto Argonaut Club House was scorched in a fire in 1947 barbecuing the bulk of the trophies in their collection. The Grey Cup managed to weather the flames with only superficial charring. In 1969 the Grey Cup was stolen from Ottawa’s Landsdowne Park but resurfaced two months later in a Toronto hotel locker after an informer tipped off police. A look-alike trophy was fashioned afterwards as a security precaution. Figuring the cup was out of hot water after almost two decades without incident the dummy cup was retired from duty in 1987. The timing couldn’t be worse as that same year during the Edmonton Eskimos victory party somebody inadvertently crushed the trophy by sitting on it. The gauntlet of pain continued in 1991 as the Argonauts had to apply a duct tape tourniquet to keep the trophy’s neck from snapping off during celebrations; in 1993 Edmonton’s Blake Dermott bashed in the side of the cup with a head butt for “tradition” sake; and the Alouettes got so physical with ole Grey during post victory celebrations in 2002 that when they were done with it, it was in three pieces.


411 When the World Cup of soccer concept was conceived in 1928 FIFA decided the winning country should receive something exceptional and commissioned French sculptor Abel Lafleur to create a stunning statuette. Brazil was awarded permanent possession of the trophy in 1970 in honour of their third World Cup triumph. A new trophy was created for the tenth World Cup in 1974. The current incarnation of the World Cup trophy is 36 cm high, weighs 4.9 kg and is made of solid 18-carat gold with a base containing two layers of semi-precious malachite. It has enough plaque space to decorate winners up to 2038
Ultimate Champion: Brazil 5 Wins.

911 During WWII, FIFA vice president Dr. Ottorino Barassi hid the cup in a shoebox under his bed so that the Nazis would not discover it. In 1966, just a few months before the tournament was to be held in the UK, the cup was lifted while on display in Westminster hall and a £15000 ransom was demanded. A week later David Corbett, a Thames River barge worker and his collie Pickles unearthed the cup which was wrapped in newspaper beneath a hedge nearby his south London apartment. Corbett was awarded a £3000 finders fee for saving FIFA the embarrassment of staging a tournament without a prize and the thief was busted by authorities and sentenced to two years in prison. There was no gold sniffing dog to save the day when the World Cup was grifted again in 1983. Hooded men broke into the Brazilian Soccer federation headquarters in Rio, tied and gagged the security detail and whisked away the trophy. Despite a $10 000 reward for the Cup’s return it was never recovered.

The Cold One

411 This trophy may lack the pomp and circumstance of the other three (its victors number in the billions after all) but it is steeped in a rich tradition of gamesmanship that is unrivaled. Nothing hits the spot more after eighteen-holes or a game of pick-up street hockey. Ultimate Champion Beer drinkers around the world 911 Hmmm...well, it doesn’t go well with ice cream.

This article first ran in the May 2006 issue of Chill Magazine

Copyright © Mike Dojc, 2006

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