The Stanley Cup turns 125 this year. It is, arguably, the most recognizable trophy in all of sports, and has had one of the biggest cultural impacts in Canada. Canadians have grown up watching the Cup being hoisted by their favourite players, and many held the dream of one day lifting it themselves.
Most don’t ever get the chance to play for the Cup, but there is a place where groups of children get to play for the Stanley Can.
Steve Tschipper is a businessman, a father and, most importantly, a hockey coach. He grew up in Thornhill, Ont., (just north of Toronto). He spent most of his childhood playing high-level hockey, and hoped to one day compete for the Cup. As with most players, the dream was short-lived. He never got the chance to lift the Stanley Cup. But he did something even better.
When Tschipper was a child, hockey teams were run through the churches, so he and his friends all played for the local church hockey team. He played with the same group of guys through his entire childhood and became good friends with a few of them. Once they turned 17, they were told by the church to coach the local hockey camp.
The camp consisted of children ages 8 to 12. Given that Tschipper and his friends were still young themselves, they found it hard to control them. One day, a friend of Steve’s came up with an idea: create a trophy — a cup, if you will.
“He came back with a salad bowl wrapped in duct tape,” Tschipper said, chuckling. “It was hilarious, but it worked!”
They introduced the cup to the kids. Instantly they became better behaved. They finally had something to play for. They held a “championship game” every Friday afternoon (the last day of the camp), and the winner got to hoist the trophy. It became a camp trademark. And so the “Stanley Can” was born.
The summer was short-lived, and Tschipper and his friends were ready for the next stage of their lives. He moved away to college, and after that moved downtown to start his career. Hockey was always in his heart, but it wasn’t a priority.
A few years later, he went back to the local rink in Thornhill to see how the camp was holding up, only to find it was going to be shut down. Tschipper decided to take it over, and launched his own camp. He made a new and improved Stanley Can and started working at the camp as his side job. Year after year, the camp slowly grew.
Since then, the Stanley Can has become a staple in Thornhill. Every child in the area knows about it and has probably spent at least one week of their life competing for it.
“I vividly remember playing for the Can as a kid,” said Liam Hamilton, a graduate of the camp. “It was so much fun and really brought excitement to the game. I recall it being my favourite day of the summer.”
Tschipper has also found a bit of family tradition beginning to run through the camp.
“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years now, and you’ll find a lot of parents (who are now bringing their children) will come and tell me they used to come to this camp when they were young,” Tschipper said. “It really makes this all worth it.”
125 years today since the Stanley Cup was first awarded = a lot of beverages consumed out of Lord Stanley’s Mug. @HockeyHallFame is celebrating this milestone with a special tribute to hockey’s Holy Grail and the champions who chased it. https://t.co/q66JUy4CIA #HHOF pic.twitter.com/K4V3BG8h1b
— NHL (@NHL) May 15, 2018
Happy 125 Anniversary To the Best Trophy in sports history the Stanley Cup! 🔥🙌🎉🎉🎉
— C (@Have1034) March 15, 2017