The mystery of the Stanley Cup banners: Oh Stanley!

Oh Stanley!

Stanley Cup banners at the Westmount Arena
Photo: Richard Burnett

Remembering Montreal's forgotten Stanley Cup winners - and banners

There are 12 Stanley Cup banners belonging to the now-defunct Montreal Victorias (1895 through 1898), Montreal Shamrocks (1899 and 1900), Montreal Wanderers (1906-8) and the Montreal Maroons (1926 and 1935) hanging in the Westmount Arena directly above a rink where thousands of children have played hockey since the arena was built in 1957.

"They’re the originals," one arena worker told Hour.

But Westmount Sports and Recreation director Mike Deegan confirms they are not.

"The banners are, in fact, exact replicas," Deegan says. "I received them from the McCord Museum after their [1996] Montreal, That’s Hockey! exhibit, donated to us free of charge to promote the 125th anniversary of the City of Westmount."

Hour could not locate any originals or reproductions at the McCord Museum, where museum decorative arts curator Conrad Graham told Hour the McCord doesn’t "have a record of where the repros came from."

Over in Toronto, the Hockey Hall of Fame’s corporate and media relations manager Kelly Masse told Hour, "[We do] not have the original banners, but would love to know if they still exist and would be honoured to have them on display here."

The Stanley Cup, of course, was donated by the former Governor-General of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston, in 1892 after witnessing his first ice hockey game at Montreal’s downtown Victoria Ice Rink in 1889. Today, the Stanley Cup is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America.

In all, six Montreal teams (including the hockey club of the MAAA in 1893-4 and 1902-3) have won 41 Stanley Cups. Five of those teams at one time or another played in the original Westmount Arena (also known as the Montreal Arena) built at the corner of Ste-Catherine and Wood. The arena held 10,000 spectators and home teams included the Montreal Canadiens, who won their first Stanley Cup there in 1916.

In 1924 the Montreal Forum was originally built for the NHL’s Montreal Maroons – who won Stanley Cups in 1926 and 1935 before folding in 1938 – and also served as the home of the Habs from 1926 to 1996.

But what of those 24 Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup banners that hung in the Forum? Where are those originals?

"The original Stanley Cup banners were sold in the Forum closing auction," says Canadiens manager of history and archives Carl Lavigne. "New ones were made for the Bell Centre when the team moved in 1996."

What that means is the 12 Stanley Cup banners hanging in the current Westmount Arena are really just as good as the originals: If reproductions hanging in the Bell Centre are good enough for the greatest hockey team in history, then replicas are also good enough for the Westmount Arena.

"The youth today really do not remember the Shamrocks, Wanderers, Victorias and Maroons," Mike Deegan over at the Westmount Arena sighs. "This part of our hockey history should not be forgotten and it is why it’s important to display the replica banners in our arena. The Stanley Cup banners won by Montreal- and Westmount-based teams are not just of significant historical importance, [but] also [elicit] interesting discussions when different teams and spectators visit our rink."

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