This morning the Vancouver Park Board said on Twitter that June 15th (the date of the Canucks game 7 match-up with the Boston Bruins) is also the
170th 103rd birthday anniversary of the death of Lord Stanley1. While we know Stanley for the park that was named in his honor, and his coveted cup, I thought it might be worth learning a bit more about the man with the famous name.
Lord Stanley (Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby) was the 6th Governor General of Canada who served from 1888 to 1893. I learned more about Lord Stanley when we watched the CBC’s Hockey: A People’s History a few years ago, which I highly recommend.
The story goes that Lord Derby (he was Baron Stanley of Preston as well) had two sons that loved to play hockey and got their parents hooked on the game as well. Around 1892-1893 Lord Stanley donated the silver cup that would be awarded to the best amateur hockey club in the country. It was first known as the Challenge Cup and by 1909 it was awarded to professional teams exclusively. Since 1926 it’s been the prize for the top team in the National Hockey League. [source]
However, before there was a cup, there was a park – in Vancouver. From VancouverHistory:
1889 brought us the first visit to Vancouver by a Governor General. On October 29 Lord Stanley of Preston, who had been sworn in the year before, dedicated Stanley Park, which had been opened in September, 1888. An observer at the dedication wrote: “Lord Stanley threw his arms to the heavens, as though embracing within them the whole of one thousand acres of primeval forest, and dedicated it ‘to the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colours, creeds, and customs, for all time’.”
A few days before the dedication, incidentally, a letter was written (we’re not sure by whom) promising a suitable monument to commemorate the event. City archivist J.S. Matthews would discover that letter in 1950, more than 60 years after it was written, and realize the promise had not been fulfilled. He began a fund-raising campaign, and raised enough money to commission a statue. It took a while: the statue—created by English sculptor Sydney Marsh, and capturing Stanley’s expansive gesture—wouldn’t be unveiled until May 19, 1960. Fittingly, that ceremony was presided over by another Governor General, Georges Vanier.
Lord Stanley, adorned with a replica cup during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals in Vancouver, is immortalized at the entrance to the park named in his honor.
You can find him in bronze when you walk along the causeway (from downtown) on the Coal Harbour side – just over the pedestrian bridge. The statue was installed on May 29, 1960, thanks to the research and efforts of our city’s first archivist, Major Matthews.
1 Thanks to Bob Mackin for the correction on the anniversary stat.