When Lord Stanley of Preston donated the Stanley Cup – which he inscribed as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup – he couldn’t have known that he was creating the longest-running professional sports trophy in North America. Yet, the NHL still awards the trophy to this day, with each winner adding its name to the list of Stanley Cup Champions.

Stanley Cup Champions NHL
The long list of Stanley Cup Champions includes the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the trophy in 2020. (Image: Andy Devlin/NHLI/Getty)

In its long history, the Stanley Cup has gone through several different eras of North American hockey. Yet, the trophy has maintained — and even grown — its prestige over the past 130 years. Here’s a look at the long history of Stanley Cup Champions, starting from its amateur origins to its association with the NHL.

The Challenge Cup era (1893-1914)

In the beginning, teams in the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada could claim the Stanley Cup either by winning a challenge against the current holders, or by winning the league championship.

This meant that the Stanley Cup could move from team to team several times in the same year. By the early 1900s, professional teams came to dominate the list of Stanley Cup champions. In 1912, the Cup trustees decided that teams could only challenge the current holders at the end of the champion’s regular season.

The Montreal Hockey Club became the first team to win the Stanley Cup in 1893. (Image: Hockey Hall of Fame/Library and Archives Canada)

This makes for a long list of Stanley Cup champions in the early going of the trophy. Below is a list of winners, denoting how long each team held the Cup – with longer reigns often featuring several successful defenses against challenges.


Challenge Cup era champions

  • 1893-1895: Montreal Hockey Club
  • 1895: Montreal Victorias
  • 1896: Winnipeg Victorias
  • 1896-1899: Montreal Victorias
  • 1899-1901: Montreal Shamrocks
  • 1901-1902: Winnipeg Victorias
  • 1902-1903: Montreal HC
  • 1903-1906: Ottawa HC
  • 1906-1907: Montreal Wanderers
  • 1907: Kenora Thistles
  • 1907-1909: Montreal Wanderers
  • 1909-1910: Ottawa HC
  • 1910-1911: Montreal Wanderers
  • 1911-1912: Ottawa HC
  • 1912-1914: Quebec Bulldogs
  • 1914: Toronto Hockey Club

The NHL vs. the PCHA (1915-1926)

In 1915, the Stanley Cup trustees agreed to a plan that would see the champions of the National Hockey Association and the West Coast Pacific Coast Hockey Association face off for the trophy each year.

After the 1917 season, the NHA folded, only for the NHL to take its place. In 1922, the Western Canada Hockey League joined the fray, requiring three champions to compete for the title each year. In 1924, the PCHA folded, once again leaving two leagues to fight for the Cup.

The Vancouver Cougars became the last non-NHL team to win the Stanley Cup in 1925. (Image: ClassicAuctions.net)

The Victoria Cougars of the WCHL became the last Stanley Cup champions outside of the NHL when they won the trophy in 1925. The WCHL would compete for one more year as the Western Hockey League before folding in 1926.


The transitional era champions

  • 1915: Vancouver Millionaires
  • 1916: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1917: Seattle Metropolitans
  • 1918: Toronto Arenas
  • 1919: Series Cancelled Due to Influenza Pandemic
  • 1920: Ottawa Senators
  • 1921: Ottawa Senators
  • 1922: Toronto St. Patricks
  • 1923: Ottawa Senators
  • 1924: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1925: Victoria Cougars
  • 1926: Montreal Maroons

The Era of NHL Control (1927 to Today)

After the WHL folded, the NHL acquired its remaining assets and became the only league competing for the Stanley Cup. While other leagues could issue challenges, no non-NHL team ever played for the trophy again. In 1947, the NHL reached an agreement with the Cup trustees to give the league control of the Stanley Cup, allowing it to reject challenges from other leagues.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it will never happen again. Several lower-level professional leagues floated the idea of playing for the Stanley Cup in 2005, when the NHL ceased operations due to a lockout. In 2006, an Ontario Superior Court found that the 1947 agreement went against Lord Stanley’s instructions for the cup, and the NHL has since agreed to allow other teams to play for the Cup if it is ever not awarded by the league again.

The Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 2001. (Image: NHL.com)

Other than in 2005, however, the NHL has awarded the Stanley Cup annually since 1927 without interruption. The Montreal Canadiens have the most titles since the end of the challenge system in 1915, becoming Stanley Cup Champions 24 times.


The NHL era champions

  • 1927: Ottawa Senators
  • 1928: New York Rangers
  • 1929: Boston Bruins
  • 1930: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1931: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1932: Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1933: New York Rangers
  • 1934: Chicago Black Hawks
  • 1935: Montreal Maroons
  • 1936: Detroit Red Wings
  • 1937: Detroit Red Wings
  • 1938: Chicago Black Hawks
  • 1939: Boston Bruins
  • 1940: New York Rangers
  • 1941: Boston Bruins
  • 1942: Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1943: Detroit Red Wings
  • 1944: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1945: Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1946: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1947: Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1948: Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1949: Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1950: Detroit Red Wings
  • 1951: Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1952: Detroit Red Wings
  • 1953: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1954: Detroit Red Wings
  • 1955: Detroit Red Wings
  • 1956: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1957: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1958: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1959: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1960: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1961: Chicago Black Hawks
  • 1962: Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1963: Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1964: Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1965: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1966: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1967: Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1968: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1969: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1970: Boston Bruins
  • 1971: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1972: Boston Bruins
  • 1973: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1974: Philadelphia Flyers
  • 1975: Philadelphia Flyers
  • 1976: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1977: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1978: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1979: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1980: New York Islanders
  • 1981: New York Islanders
  • 1982: New York Islanders
  • 1983: New York Islanders
  • 1984: Edmonton Oilers
  • 1985: Edmonton Oilers
  • 1986: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1987: Edmonton Oilers
  • 1988: Edmonton Oilers
  • 1989: Calgary Flames
  • 1990: Edmonton Oilers
  • 1991: Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 1992: Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 1993: Montreal Canadiens
  • 1994: New York Rangers
  • 1995: New Jersey Devils
  • 1996: Colorado Avalanche
  • 1997: Detroit Red Wings
  • 1998: Detroit Red Wings
  • 1999: Dallas Stars
  • 2000: New Jersey Devils
  • 2001: Colorado Avalanche
  • 2002: Detroit Red Wings
  • 2003: New Jersey Devils
  • 2004: Tampa Bay Lightning
  • 2005: No Winner Due to NHL Lockout
  • 2006: Carolina Hurricanes
  • 2007: Anaheim Ducks
  • 2008: Detroit Red Wings
  • 2009: Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 2010: Chicago Blackhawks
  • 2011: Boston Bruins
  • 2012: Los Angeles Kings
  • 2013: Chicago Blackhawks
  • 2014: Los Angeles Kings
  • 2015: Chicago Blackhawks
  • 2016: Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 2017: Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 2018: Washington Capitals
  • 2019: St. Louis Blues
  • 2020: Tampa Bay Lightning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *