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The missing year of the Allan Cup

Canada’s third-oldest hockey trophy will not be awarded for the first time since the Second World War.

Men who tamed. The hullabaloo of another hockey season died away today but the hosannas continued to... Photo by Toronto Star Archives/Toronto Star via Getty Images

“Nobody remembers who came second” are the immortal words of Alexandre Daigle when he was drafted first overall by the Ottawa Senators in 1993. Although it certainly came back to haunt him a few years later, seeing multiple players drafted after him making bigger names for themselves, this principle certainly does apply in this particular story.

The Stanley Cup, first awarded in 1893 to the best professional team, has blossomed into the sport’s ultimate prize. Winning it signifies you’re the best in the world. Better than any other league’s champion. Better than teams that have earned a gold medal at the IIHF’s World Championship. Even more prestigious than a gold medal at the Olympics. The Stanley Cup has been awarded every year, expect in 1919 when the Spanish Flu outbreak occurred and in 2005 when the season was cancelled due to a labour dispute. The league clings to hope that a 2020 champion can still be crowned.

Second in terms of longevity is the Queen’s Cup, first awarded in 1903, and now given to the winner of the Ontario University Athletics conference of U Sports. The trophy was not claimed during either the First World War nor the Second World War, so there are several years of continuous lineage missing. It was awarded in 2020, however, as the Guelph Gryphons defeated the Ottawa Gee Gees on March 7 to earn the right to hoist it, just before all sporting competition was suspended worldwide.

Then there is the Allan Cup, the third-longest-tenured hockey trophy, first awarded in 1909 to the best amateur team in Canada. It has gradually slipped out of mainstream attention. For decades its winner was determined through a series of regional playoffs and then a final national tournament, with the victorious team going on to represent Canada at the Olympics and the World Championship.

The most famous recipient was the Winnipeg Falcons, who won the Allan Cup in 1920 and proceeded to become the first men’s hockey Olympic gold medallists in Belgium that year. Their mustard-coloured jersey was celebrated by Team Canada at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

WC of Hockey: Canada v USA Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The Allan Cup has been awarded every year since inception, except in 1945 due to the final painful throes of the Second World War bringing society to the precipice. Now, for only the second time in its existence, there will be no winner in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By 1984, the Memorial Cup had overtaken the Allan Cup as the top trophy for amateur teams in Canada. The Allan Cup began being awarded to the top Senior AAA team in the country instead. With the abundance of Junior coverage and the growth of the NHL TV market, senior hockey began to take a back seat, and all but disappeared from any significant regular coverage, along with the Allan Cup. These teams are made up of mostly former professional hockey players who have moved on from their careers, but still play hockey on a semi-regular basis.

This season, it was to be contested by the clubs in the Senior AAA Allan Cup Hockey league, based out of southern Ontario, with hosting duties for the playoffs split between the Hamilton Steelhawks and the Dundas Real Macoys. The Steelhawks were boasting a roster formed of a lot of former AHL and ECHL players, and seemed primed to be a favourite to win the honours after a dominant season at the league level.

Unfortunately that tournament won’t go ahead. Dundas lost its chance at the trophy, and the team had also recently renovated its arena, the J.L. Grightmire Market Street Arena, at great expense. The Allan Cup was primed to be the culmination of its rejuvenation.
In addition, the sounds of skates on ice is not heard at the Dave Andreychuk Arena, home of the Steelhawks, where the arena floor is host to Hamilton’s first drive-thru coronavirus testing facility.

The gap in the lineage of the Allan Cup will be a stark reminder how the world came to a pause in 2020, affecting everyone and everything.
As the first plans get finalized to emerge from this pandemic, we can look at the lineage of these historic trophies, knowing that they withstood the test of time despite earth-shattering global events. They emerged on the other side as objects of celebration and joy once again, etched by times past and moving on to create new history.