The Stanley Cup (French: La Coupe Stanley) is the championship trophy awarded annually to the National Hockey League (NHL) playoff winner. It is the oldest existing trophy to be awarded to a professional sports franchise, and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) considers it to be one of the "most important championships available to the sport". Originally commissioned in 1892 as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, the trophy is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, then–Governor General of Canada, who donated it as an award to Canada's top-ranking amateur ice hockey club, which the entire Stanley family supported, with the sons and daughters playing and promoting the game. The first Cup was awarded in 1893 to Montreal HC, and subsequent winners from 1893 to 1914 were determined by challenge games and league play. Professional teams first became eligible to challenge for the Stanley Cup in 1906. In 1915, the two professional ice hockey organizations, the National Hockey Association (NHA) and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA), reached a gentlemen's agreement in which their respective champions would face each other annually for the Stanley Cup. After a series of league mergers and folds, it was established as the de facto championship trophy of the NHL in 1926 and then the de jure NHL championship prize in 1947.
There are actually three Stanley Cups: the original bowl of the "Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup", the authenticated "Presentation Cup", and the "Replica Cup" on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame. The NHL has maintained effective control over both the trophy itself and its associated trademarks. Nevertheless, the NHL does not actually own the trophy, but instead uses it by agreement with the two Canadian Trustees of the Cup. The NHL has registered trademarks associated with the name and likeness of the Stanley Cup, although the league's right to outright own trademarks associated with a trophy it does not own has been disputed by some legal experts. The original bowl was made of silver and is 18.5 centimetres (7.28 inches) in height and 29 centimetres (11.42 inches) in diameter. The current Stanley Cup, topped with a copy of the original bowl, is made of a silver and nickel alloy; it has a height of 89.54 centimetres (35.25 inches) and weighs 15.5 kilograms (34.5 lb).
Unlike the trophies awarded by the other major professional sports leagues of North America, a new Stanley Cup is not made each year. Originally, the winners kept it until a new champion was crowned. Currently, winning teams get the Stanley Cup during the summer and a limited number of days during the season. It is unusual among trophies to include winning members' names. Every year since 1924, a select portion of the winning players, coaches, management, and club staff names are engraved on its bands. However, there is not enough room to include all the players and non-players, so some names must be omitted. Between 1924 and 1940, a new band was added almost every year the trophy was awarded, earning the nickname "Stovepipe Cup" due to the unnatural height of all the bands. In 1947 the cup size was reduced, but not all the large rings were the same size. In 1958 the modern one-piece Cup was designed with a five-band barrel which could contain 13 winning teams per band. To prevent the Stanley Cup from growing, when the bottom band is full, the oldest band is removed and preserved in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a new blank band added to the bottom. It has been referred to as The Cup, Lord Stanley's Cup, The Holy Grail, or facetiously (chiefly by sportswriters) as Lord Stanley's Mug. The Stanley Cup is surrounded by numerous legends and traditions, the oldest of which is the celebratory drinking of champagne out of the cup by the winning team.
Since the 1914–15 season, the Cup has been won a combined 101 times by 18 active NHL teams and five defunct teams. It was not awarded in 1919 because of a Spanish flu epidemic, and in 2005, as a consequence of the 2004–05 NHL lockout. During the challenge cup era from 1893 to 1914, the Cup was held by nine different teams. The Montreal Canadiens have won the Cup a record 24 times and are the most recent Canadian-based team to win the cup, having won it in 1993, while the Detroit Red Wings have won the Cup 11 times, the most of any United States based NHL team, most recently in 2008.