The Memorial Cup (Coupe Memorial in French) is a junior ice hockey club championship trophy awarded annually to the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) champion. It is awarded following a four-team, round-robin tournament between a host team and the champions of the CHL's three member leagues: the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and Western Hockey League (WHL). Sixty teams are eligible to compete for the Memorial Cup, representing nine provinces and four American states. The Windsor Spitfires are the current champions, winning in the final game against the OHL champion Erie Otters. The Memorial Cup is known as one of the toughest sporting trophies to win, due to 60 teams participating and the age limit only being 16-21.
The trophy was originally known as the OHA Memorial Cup and was donated by the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) in 1919 to be awarded to the junior champion of Canada. From its inception until 1971, the Memorial Cup was open to all Junior A teams in the country and was awarded following a series of league, provincial and regional playoffs culminating in an east-west championship. The three-league tournament format began in 1972, a season after Canadian Amateur Hockey Association divided the Junior A rank into two tiers, naming the Memorial Cup as the championship of the Major Junior level.
The Memorial Cup was established by Captain James T. Sutherland to honour those men who gave their lives during World War I. It was rededicated during the 2010 tournament to honour all soldiers who died fighting for Canada in any conflict.
Capt. Sutherland, who was serving overseas, was President of the Ontario Hockey Association and he brought forward the idea to present a trophy to honour all the young Canadian hockey players who died in battle and have it awarded to the best junior hockey team in Canada. The Ontario Hockey Association’s annual meeting was unanimous that a fitting memorial be established to members of the OHA who had fallen on the field of war.
"Past President Capt. J. T. Sutherland, now in France, spoke of the splendid work done by Canadian boys in France and suggested the erection of a suitable memorial to hockey players who have fallen."—The Globe, Toronto, Ontario, Dec. 9, 1918.
"The (Memorial) cup, coveted prize of Canadian junior hockey, was the brainchild of Capt. Jim (Sutherland) when he was overseas in the Great War (1914–18) and at the time, President of the Ontario Hockey Association (1915–17). He wrote suggesting the trophy in memory of the boys who were killed in the war and no doubt a big part of the idea was instigated by his devotion to his beloved (Alan) Scotty Davidson*, who fell (June 6, 1915) with many other hockey players in the world conflict (including Capt. George T. Richardson*, who died in France, Feb. 9, 1916. (*Both are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.) --William J. Walshe, Comments on Sport, The Kingston Whig-Standard, Jan. 6, 1939.
From 1919 to 1928, the Memorial Cup Final was a two-game total goals affair between a champion from Eastern Canada and a champion from Western Canada, both of which were determined through a series of playdowns under the auspices of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. In 1929, the Memorial Cup Final became a best-of-three series.
In 1934, when the junior hockey teams were further divided between Junior 'A' and Junior 'B', the Memorial Cup served as the Junior 'A' championship trophy, and the Sutherland Cup became the Junior 'B' trophy. From 1937 the Memorial Cup was a best-of-five series, and in 1943 reverted to a best-of-seven series.
For the 1970–1971 season, the Junior 'A' rank was further split into the Major Junior rank and a second-tier rank (referred nowadays as Junior 'A'), with the Memorial Cup serving as the Major Junior championship trophy, and the Manitoba Centennial Trophy, and later the Royal Bank Cup, serving as the second tier championship trophy.
In 1972, the Memorial Cup was contested between three teams: the champions of the three leagues of the Canadian Hockey League: the Ed Chynoweth Cup Champs (WHL), J. Ross Robertson Cup Champs (OHL), and the President's Cup Champs (QMJHL). From 1972 to 1973 these three teams played a single round-robin (two games each), with the top two teams advancing to a single-game final. A semi-final game was added in 1974. In 1977 the tournament was expanded to a double round-robin (four games each), with no semi-final. The tournament was held at a pre-determined site which was rotated among the three leagues.
The 1983 Memorial Cup tournament saw the inclusion of a fourth team, the team hosting the event, which was done to boost tournament attendance. The first tournament under this format was held in Portland, Oregon, and marked the first time that an American city hosted the Memorial Cup. The host Winter Hawks also won the Cup that year, becoming the first American team to win the Memorial Cup, as well as becoming the first host team to win it. The four teams played a single round-robin (three games each). If two teams are tied for third place, then a tie-breaker game is played on Thursday, followed by a semi-final game between the second and third-place teams and a final between the first-place team and the semi-final winner. This format continues to be used to this day, with the honour of hosting the tournament rotated amongst the CHL's three member leagues.
If the host team also wins its respective league championship, the Memorial Cup berth reserved for the league champion is instead awarded to that league's runner-up. This was the case in 2006, when the Quebec Remparts lost to the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL Finals. However, since Moncton was hosting the Memorial Cup that year, Quebec was awarded the QMJHL berth to the Memorial Cup tournament. The Remparts went on to win the Memorial Cup that season, the first time that a team has won the tournament without qualifying as the tournament host or as the champions of their respective league.
In the history of the cup, there have been two major mishaps with the cup itself. At the 2008 tournament, a replica trophy, which is the one teams are presented with on the ice after the game, broke apart as captain Chris Bruton of the victorious Spokane Chiefs tried to hand it off to a teammate after being presented the cup on the ice. The crowd started heckling after the replica cup broke apart, while the Spokane Chiefs took apart the trophy and shared it around with teammates.
Starting in 1972, the Memorial Cup committee has awarded honours for play at the Memorial Cup tournament. There are now five annual awards presented.
|Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy||Most valuable player||1972|
|George Parsons Trophy||Most sportsmanlike player||1974|
|Hap Emms Memorial Trophy||Outstanding goaltender||1975|
|Ed Chynoweth Trophy||Leading scorer||1996|
|Memorial Cup All-Star Team||Best player at each position||1975|