The very first Stanley Cup, or La Coupe Stanley if you prefer, was first awarded way back in 1893. The lucky winners were the Montreal Hockey Club, and the city has continued with its dominance in the sport’s highest prize ever since.
With 24 wins for the Canadiens in the modern era compared with 13 for their nearest rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs there’s certainly a great deal of catching up to do.
The cup itself was named in honour of the Governor General of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston who was a great supporter of the sport and over the years the game has seen some epic finals as teams battle it out claim the prize.
During this time, it’s seen everything from epic encounters to memorable moments. One of the biggest of these was surely when hockey legend Lanny McDonald won his only Stanley Cup in 1989 with the Calgary Flames in the last game of his career.
Unforgettable and emotional as this was, it doesn’t quite make it into our top five – and when you read what these are you’ll soon see why.
Montreal Canadiens v Chicago Blackhawks, 1971.
To everyone watching, it looked like a near certainty that the Stanley Cup for 1971 was destined for the Windy City as the Blackhawks were cruising with a 2-0 lead in the second period.
But the Canadiens were fired up and Jacques Le Maire scored from center ice, leaving goalie Tony Esposito lost for words.
Henri Richard then followed up with not one, but two, stunning goals to make it the third cup win for the Montreal team in four years, and adding to their legendary status as a team that would never just lie down and be beaten.
Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks 1992
The Blackhawks were on the receiving end of another defeat in 1992, although a very different one to their 1971 encounter.
Having won their first ever Stanley Cup the year before, the Penguins were big favourites going into the final. But in game 1 the Blackhawks surprised them by taking a 4-1 lead. This was short-lived and the Pittsburgh team turned it around to a 5-4 victory for them.
The following games were closely-fought and cagey but the Penguins eventually prevailed with a 4-0 series win. Although this had been predicted, the sheer quality of the matches earned this encounter’s place on our list.
New York Rangers v Vancouver Canucks, 1994
There’s no doubt that back in 1994 Rangers fans would have been overjoyed to have the chance of a FanDuel NY promo code to place a wager on their team. The final gave them the chance to clinch their first Stanley Cup victory in over 50 years, they just had to overcome the Canucks.
One of the hurdles was the Canucks’ keeper Kirk McLean who was in the form of his life making over 50 saves in the first game alone.
Despite losing this game, by game five the Rangers were 3-1 up but then disaster struck with a 3-6 loss. So there was still a great deal to do going into the decider, but the Rangers were up to the task to claim a famous win.
Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks, 2011
Going into the finals, it was hard to say which team was most hungry for victory, but hungry they were.
The Canucks took the early initiative by winning the first two games by very narrow margins. Along the way they had been using tough tactics, most notably deployed by Alexandre Burrows.
In the next game the Bruins’ Nathan Horton was knocked out by Aaron Rome but this just made the Bostonians even more determined to win. Heading into game seven The Bruins delivered their own 4-0 knockout blow to vanquish the Canucks once again.
Pittsburgh Penguins v Detroit Red Wings, 2009
Throughout the 2009 season the Penguins’ and the Red Wings’ performances had been very similar, and of a very high standard. So no-one was very surprised when the finals went the whole seven games to decide on the winners.
Momentum swung like a pendulum throughout the series with the first two games going to the Red Wings and the next two to the Penguins. Then the Red Wings saw the return of Pavel Datsyuk in game five and who played a big part in the 5-0 victory.
The Penguins fought back to take it to a seventh game decider. The final game was the tensest of all and could have gone either way, but the Penguins held out for a famous victory.
There have already been many predictions about who could make this season’s finals with the Hurricanes and the Avalanche leading the way. As to whether it will produce another classic, we’ll just have to wait and see.