My Letter to the Stanley Cup Trustees

Deciding to make good on my idea that netted me a free round of golf on the TEAM 1200, I wrote a letter to the Stanley Cup Trustees, sending additional copies to Hockey Canada, and U.S.A. Hockey. Read it below:

 

Dear Misters Morrison and O’Neill:

I am writing this letter regarding the awarding of the Stanley Cup in 2013.

WHEREAS the original grantor, Fredrick Arthur Stanley, donated the DominionHockey Challenge Cup (as it then was, in 1893), for the top-ranking amateur hockey club in Canada; and

WHEREAS the National Hockey League (“NHL”) has, through the actions of this past weekend, shown an intent to NOT play the 2012-13 NHL season; and

WHEREAS it is to the trustees to use their discretion in adhering to the wishes of the original grantor, and the trust’s intended beneficiaries;

I propose that the Stanley Cup be awarded in the 2012-13 hockey season by means of a single elimination, North American encompassing tournament.

The premise is quite simple. Through a proposed partnership with Hockey Canada and U.S.A. Hockey, I suggest that a group of 32 teams—16 from Canada, and 16 from the United States—be selected through a process of round robin regional (and national) qualifying tournaments. This process shall carry on through the Fall and Winter, culminating by Sunday, January 20th, 2013. Eligibility would be open to any player over the age of eighteen years old—regardless of race, creed, colour, gender, as well as national or professional status—provided they are legally and physically able to play ice hockey in Canada and the United States.

The following week, beginning on Saturday, January 26th, a series of single elimination games shall take place each Saturday and Sunday. The dimensions of the ice surface shall conform to that employed by the NHL. Rules, in turn, shall largely conform to the standard set by the NHL (though it is my own personal predilection to do away with the touch icing rule, as well as the goalie’s trapezoid behind the net). This process shall culminate with the a single, championship game between the two finalists, to be held on Sunday, February 24th, 2012.

Any revenue generated by the holding of this tournament—less any costs of renting ice, administration, et cetera—shall be bifurcated. One half shall be distributed among the players on the 32 finalist teams. The other half shall be distributed among charitable foundations, whose mandate it is to promote youth hockey, in particular for disadvantaged and impecunious children.

The NHL has, in the past, expressed its willingness to award the Stanley Cup to a non-NHL franchise in the event of a lost season. The commencement of the player’s lockout by the NHL is tantamount to a desire not to play their season. It would be unfeasible—and indeed, unreasonable—to wait an indeterminate period to see if the NHL changes its mind, after which, it would be impossible to organize a tournament of any value to award the Stanley Cup.

I am therefore asking the Stanley Cup Trustees to approve my proposal as soon as possible, so that the organization of a tournament befitting Lord Stanley’s original trust can commence. Should you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me at the address included above.

 

 

The ball is now in their court.

 

Also, in case anyone was wondering, the par through 9 holes on my free round of golf was 35. I shot a 105, and was told to go home because the sun was setting. Apparently it’s not supposed to take 3 hours to do 9 holes of golf. I was given coupons which I will never use. 😦

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How to Award the Stanley Cup in 2013

For anyone who lives in Canada or the cold American states, hockey is intrinsically tied to our sense of identity, our secular-religious self, if you will.

The sensation is something entirely different when we go and watch an ice hockey game. We’re paying money–or tuning in on the TV–to be entertained by the best athletes we can see. It’s exhilarating by proxy. We adopt teams as our own for whatever reason, and accept the fiction that their success is our success, and that their failures are our own. There’s something wonderful about that.

Those of you who know me, know that I follow hockey a fair bit, in particular the Ottawa Senators. I haven’t played since I was 13. My mother pulled me out of hockey when the forechecking started to factor in, and got me playing badminton instead (which frankly is a better fit for a kid with decent reflexes and knobby ankles, but I digress). But that doesn’t make watching hockey or following your team any less exhilarating each season’s start.

Problem is, there might not be a season this year, thanks to the pending lockout by NHL executives and owners. The owners are the ones that want greater control of profits on television, revenue sharing, salary caps, etc. etc. The players–who often times have extremely limited playing careers just by sheer virtue of how physical the sport it–want to get out and play, and get the maximum profit they can before they have to hang up their skates. I don’t know what the answer is, and I don’t mean to say that this is the owner’s fault or the Bettman’s fault (though I, like every fan, has my suspicions) or anyone’s fault, because I don’t know. No one really knows what the solution is to this. What I do know is, as a hockey fan, I’m not being entertained. No one is being entertained when there is no hockey, and that is a travesty.

But I have a plan.

The NHL doesn’t want you to remember this, but the last time they locked out the players, the Stanley Cup–the most beautiful trophy in all of professional sports–was collecting dust. It was donated by Lord Stanley in 1892, to be given to the most successful NHL franchise in the American Sunbelt  Amateur hockey team in Canada.

Amateur Hockey.

In Canada.

That’s right. Now, I don’t mean to sound jingoistic. I’m definitely not saying we should completely divorce the Stanley Cup from the NHL after all these years. Asides from the fact it would never happen, there’s definitely a long history intertwined between the two. But I firmly believe that the Stanley Cup does not, nor has it ever, belonged exclusively to the NHL. It has been guarded by a succession of trustees since its inception, and became the de facto championship trophy of the NHL in the 1920s. By the 1940s, the NHL convinced the cup’s trustees to make it legally the trophy of the NHL. Whether the trustees had the right to do that is another article entirely.

A settlement was reached by the NHL in the last lockout season, when a group of beer league guys sued for the right to challenge for the Stanley Cup. The settlement says that if there is no NHL season, the Stanley Cup can be awarded to a non-NHL team by its trustees. So it is possible to award the cup, EVEN in the event of an NHL lockout.

Obviously that doesn’t mean that we wait to see if they play any hockey until June. Then it would never happen; we would never be able to organize an alternative to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the cup couldn’t be awarded while we wait with bated breath for an NHL season. The only fair compromise is this: a massive, eight month Stanley Cup tournament.

You heard me right. The mother of all tournaments, something the NCAA, or the soccer folks, or even the IOCC could never imagine. A massive North-American extravaganza, culminating with a winner take all, single 60 minute game, for the rights to engrave your name in the Stanley Cup.

I think it can (and should) happen, and would have to begin gearing into motion as soon as the NHL’s lockout begins on September 15th. Here are the basic parameters of how I think it should happen:

1) Anyone over the age of 18–man or woman, professional or amateur, regardless of national origin–can put together a team. If you can play, you can play.

2) Teams must be 25 players or less in size, with the possibility of Five (5) designated alternates in case of injury.

3) Sufficient numbers permitting, there should be regional round robins and tournaments, culminating in a champion team for each of the 50 U.S. states (again, numbers permitting for whatever criteria is decided on; we don’t want the “Eddie the Eagles” of the world to come out of a place with no significant ice hockey), each of the ten Canadian Provinces, and 3 Canadian Territories.

You don’t actually have to be from the state in which you’re competing, but there needs to be some mechanism which stops wholly professional (i.e., Swedish Elite, KHL) teams from simply plunking themselves in New Mexico and trying to go for the cup.

4) The 63 (or 50, 42, whatever) number of teams are divided according to Eastern and Western division. Single elimination games each.

5) A single game championship takes place at the very end of all of this, which I think should be held at one of the NHL arenas–Maybe the ACC, Bell Centre, or Madison Square Gardens. The winner gets the cup.

Every team pays a fee–$1,500 or so?–to cover the cost of ice rentals and securing their spots in the tournament. Tickets would be sold at the venues. Any TV rights/advertising revenues/ticket sales after costs, would be evenly distributed among all the teams in the preliminary round to offset the costs of the tournament, and in the final challenge playoff, each two teams playing would share a fifty-fifty split of revenue, to be divided among the players as they wish. Any additional profits generated would go towards a purse, split 80-20 between the Stanley Cup winners and the Runners-Up.

I don’t think I’ve designed a perfect system, and maybe there’s some much needed improvements that can be thought up. But the basic principle is sound. How many NHL stars would actually risk their careers to grind their body for the cup? At least a few, I should hope. The result would be an eclectic mix of enthusiastic amateurs, professionals from the lower rungs of hockey’s hierarchy, and maybe a few superstars caught up in the excitement. The drama would be real, and it would be amazing. You would see truly cohesive and exciting teams, brought together by friendships and alliances, rather than contracts and free agency.

This could work, and even if what I’ve proposed is a garish, rough sketch, I hope that someone runs with it, and makes it happen this year, or whenever the next lockout invariably happens.

 

I’d watch it; wouldn’t you?