I Love How Small the Isobel Cup Is (For Now)

Nothing bad ever happens at Tiffany’s according to Holly Golightly, and that extends even to the world of sport. Each year, Tiffany & Co. are responsible for crafting a new Vince Lombardi Trophy for the winner of the NFL’s Super Bowl, the Commissioner’s Trophy for MLB’s World Series, and the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy for the winner of the NBA Championship. These are exquisitely crafted trophies and cherished by the annual champions.

They are all nothing next to Lord Stanley’s Cup.

The reason has nothing to do with craftsmanship, although the Stanley Cup and it’s Premier Hockey Federation equivalent the Isobel Cup are beautiful trophies. We could have a debate about which one is the most beautiful in that respect.

My reason is legacy. Two things are true of the Stanley Cup: 1) it’s the most difficult trophy to win and 2) it possesses a legacy the other trophies never will (the trophy, not the sport).

I’m not bad mouthing the other sports. I love them all (okay, I’m not into basketball so much, but that’s just me and not based on a problem with the game). I’m not saying it’s not incredibly difficult to win a Super Bowl or World Series, or that the feat is less physically demanding. It requires a team effort by world class athletes to win any of them.

That said, one can qualify for the NFL postseason with a 7-9 record under the right circumstances and “Any Given Sunday” their way to the title. The World Series is a better reflection of who is the best, but I still take issue with a format that could eliminate the two of the three best teams in a league within the first two rounds (shorter rounds at that). The NBA requires the same lengthy slog to qualify for the postseason and then the demanding best-of-seven series as the NHL, but basketball is not as brutal as hockey.

In short, I generally feel that the Stanley Cup went to the best team in hockey that year. That’s not as true for football or baseball.

And then comes the championship moment. The Commissioner presents the trophy to the winning squad. In most sports, that’s a brand new trophy crafted by Tiffany & Co. for them to take home.

Not in hockey. In hockey you are handed a tiny cup mounted atop a series of panels, on each is inscribed the names of previous winners. After that night, your name will be inscribed on a new panel and added to the trophy.

If I won the trophy tomorrow, I’d be lifting the same trophy, not a copy, as Sidney Crosby, Ray Bourque, Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Bobby Clarke, and Maurice Richard.

Sure it’s nice to have that personal one the team can display forever, but I’m content with the banner or flag to mark the occasion. The legacy of passing the actual hardware from champion to champion feels so much more meaningful.

When the National Women’s Hockey League, now the Premier Hockey Federation, introduced the Isobel Cup, it immediately captivated me. Watching the Toronto Six hoist it last night, I found myself thinking about its tiny size – tiny only because the PHF has a shorter history and the trophy has not yet accumulated the same number of panels (for those unaware, the Stanley Cup does retire panels every so many reasons so the Cup is not 30 feet tall, but the original Cup remains atop it).

I felt like an NHL fan might have felt in 1926 at the outset of the Original Six era. I watched Shiann Darkangelo, a marvelous hockey player, hold the Isobel Cup aloft and let my mind drift to the future of women’s hockey, of the Darkangelos of the future who watched and felt inspired by Shiann to pursue a career in hockey lifting the same trophy in some future season.

I love how small the Isobel Cup is, because it won’t be forever.

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