OTTAWA, Canada – 2017 is a year of big anniversaries in Ottawa, and hockey was front and centre during the 125th anniversary celebrations for the Stanley Cup (15-19 March).
“It’s the 25th anniversary of our Ottawa Senators, the 50th anniversary of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, the 100th anniversary of the NHL, the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup, and the 150th anniversary of our beloved nation,” said Ottawa mayor Jim Watson during a 16 March homecoming ceremony that saw the Cup return to Rideau Hall.
It is the official residence of the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Canada. Lord Stanley of Preston held that office from 1888 to 1893, commissioning the Stanley Cup (originally the Dominion Challenge Hockey Cup) in 1892 for 10 British guineas.
Speaking next to the fabled silver chalice, current Governor-General David Johnston said: “It’s wonderful to have the Stanley Cup back at Rideau Hall – both the original bowl and the modern-day Cup. Celebrating excellence is a big part of what we do here.”
Watson joked: “I just found out my name is on the Stanley Cup even though I can’t skate!” The mayor’s allusion was to Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Jim Watson, who won the Cup in 1974 and 1975. While that Watson wasn’t on hand, his all-star goalie teammate Bernie Parent was. And overall, seven members of the NHL’s recently named top 100 players of all time, combining for 31 Cups between them, took part in the celebrations. That included Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Guy Lafleur, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, and Paul Coffey.
“The architecture in this building is fabulous,” said Bossy, who won four Cups with the New York Islanders (1980-83) and set a record with nine straight 50-goal seasons. “To be under the portrait of Lord Stanley, it all makes sense. The Stanley Cup is such a beautiful trophy. It’s very nice to be here with my former colleagues and adversaries.”
“First and foremost, getting picked as one of the top 100 players in the league is a huge honour,” said Coffey, a three-time Norris Trophy winner who ranks 13th in all-time league scoring. “Having my name on the Stanley Cup even once – never mind four times – is a huge honour. Being part of the 125th anniversary of the Cup here in Ottawa, it’s pretty great.”
Designated as a National Historic Site in 1977, Rideau Hall is chock-a-block with hockey history. Year-round, visitors can view the 1991 Canada Cup trophy, the ballroom where Maurice “Rocket” Richard was named to the Order of Canada in 1967, and a portrait of former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson (founder of the Clarkson Cup for women’s hockey), among other things. From January to March, they can also skate on Rideau Hall’s outdoor rink.
The original Ottawa Senators won the Stanley Cup 11 times between 1903 and 1927. So Canada’s capital is a fitting place to celebrate the 89.5-centimetre-tall, 15.5-kilogram trophy that everyone knows today. The Ontario city of 934,000 has also played host to such IIHF events as the inaugural Women’s World Championship in 1990 (as well as the 2013 edition), and the 2009 World Juniors, best-remembered for Canada’s thrilling 6-5 semi-final shootout win over Russia.
Locals were thrilled when the NHL announced the Senators will face the Montreal Canadiens in the 2017 Scotiabank NHL100 Classic at TD Place in Ottawa on 16 December. Word of the NHL’s 23rd outdoor game came at the iconic Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel, which has hosted many NHL guests over the years, including Wayne Gretzky after his final game on Canadian ice in 1999.
“We’re a smaller community, but we have a lot of passion,” said Senators captain Erik Karlsson. “It’s going to create a lot of buzz around Christmas. It’ll be a great hockey game.”
“It’s a big party for the fans,” said Lafleur, who won two Hart Trophies and five Stanley Cups with the 1970’s Montreal Canadiens. “For the players themselves, it means two points. It’s not a fun game – it’s points you need to make the playoffs. I played in Edmonton with the oldtimers [in 2003] and I think it was just fantastic to be part of that.”
The good times kept rolling on 17 March with the Stanley Cup 125th Anniversary Concert at the Canadian Tire Centre. In between sit-down interviews with the NHL 100 legends and big-screen imagery of all Stanley Cups awarded from 1893 to 2016, Canadian rockers hit the stage in an intimate concert bowl format.
For IIHF fans, the biggest flashback came with the Sheepdogs’ performance of “Feeling Good.” The Saskatchewan band’s signature tune was Canada’s goal song en route to gold at the 2015 Worlds in the Czech Republic, where Sidney Crosby entered the IIHF Triple Gold Club.
Hockey fans who got to tour Ottawa in between Stanley Cup events could see just how deeply the sport is woven into the fabric of this city.
The new Hockey exhibition (through 9 October) at the Canadian Museum of History showcases a huge variety of artifacts. There's everything from a 1948 RCAF Flyers sweater from the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics to a collection of 1980's cook books published by Canadian NHL teams (i.e. Flaming Foods: A Cookbook of Enjoyable Recipes). Fans of women's hockey can admire a 1999 black-and-white photo of Cassie Campbell taken by Bryan Adams or the stick with which Marie-Philip Poulin scored the gold medal-winning goal at the 2010 Olympics.
The intimate relationship between hockey and Canadian popular music is evident at the free JUNO House: Revolutions exhibition at the Canada Council’s Ajagemo hall. Speaking of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Joni Mitchell is quoted on the wall: “The Hall of Fame makes me feel like Boom Boom Geoffrion.” Photos of award recipients include Stompin’ Tom Connors (“The Hockey Song”) and the Tragically Hip (“Fifty Mission Cap”).
March’s Stanley Cup tribute, which also included the NHL Centennial Fan Arena with memorabilia and hockey highlights aplenty, is just part of the festivities energizing Ottawa in 2017. The city expects to get more than 11 million people out to colourful events that include dance performances in fountains, giant mechanical spiders and dragons roaming down city streets, and multimedia events inside Ottawa's soon-to-be-completed light rapid transit stations.
Yet incontestably, hockey will remain the focus, whether or not the Senators capture their first Stanley Cup in 90 years this June. 18 March witnessed the groundbreaking ceremony for “Lord Stanley’s Gift.” It’s a new public monument commemorating the Cup at the corner of Sparks and Elgin Street, steps from the former site of the Russell House Hotel, where Lord Stanley donated the trophy in 1892. Political figures may come and go, but hockey glory is forever in Canada’s capital.