The Stanley Cup is inscribed with the names of all the players on the teams that have won it. When they run out of space, a new "section" is added to the trophy
The first playoff game for the Stanley Cup started on March 22, 1894. The Stanley Cup was originally donated in 1892 by Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, 1st Baron Stanley of Preston, Governor General of Canada and the son of the Earl of Derby, who had become enamoured with hockey. It was originally used as the trophy given out to the top amateur hockey team in Canada, decided by the acceptance of a challenge from another team by the Cup holders and trustees. In 1910, professional teams started competing for the trophy, and in 1926, the NHL got exclusive use of the Stanley Cup.
The cup has been awarded every year since 1893, except for 1919 when the finals were cancelled after five games after a spanish influenza epidemic in Montreal and Seattle. The deadly disease claimed the life of one player, and incapacitated several others. The series was abandoned, and remained tied at 2-2-1.
Since its first presentation, the Cup has undergone many alterations, with new levels being added and old bands being removed and preserved in the Hockey Hall of Fame (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). This is mainly due to the fact the Stanley Cup is the only trophy in professional sports that has the name of every member of the winning team engraved upon it. It stands at three feet tall and weighs almost 35 pounds.
The Montreal Canadiens have won the most Stanley Cups, capturing the Cup 24 times. The Toronto Maple Leafs come in second with 13 Cup wins. The highest-ranking American team is the Detroit Red Wings with 10 wins.
Often touted as the most difficult trophy to win in professional sports, each member of the winning Stanley Cup team gets to take possession of the trophy for 24 hours. This has resulted in a number of stories about the treatment of the trophy itself: A member of the 1905 Ottawa club drop kicked onto a frozen canal, retrieving it the next day; the 1924 Canadiens left it by a roadside after repairing a flat tire and both the 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins and 1993 Habs tested its buoyancy properties in players' swimming pools. "The Stanley Cup", Guy Carbonneau observed, "does not float".
The trophy has also been misplaced. In the end of July 2003 the Stanley Cup was to have been transported for display by Jiri Bicek in his native Slovakia. Instead it never left the departing point of Toronto's Pearson International Airport.