History – Overview
History of the Memorial Cup
The 2022-2023 season is being capped off with the 103rd anniversary of the Memorial Cup. The Memorial Cup, one of the most prestigious and coveted trophies in North American sport, has a rich tradition that has shaped the way junior hockey is played in North America. The trophy was originally known as the OHA Memorial Cup and was donated by the Ontario Hockey Association in March 1919, in remembrance of the many soldiers who paid the supreme sacrifice for Canada in the First World War. In 2010, the Memorial Cup was rededicated to the memory of all fallen Canadian Military Personnel.
Initially the Cup was awarded to the national junior hockey champions of Canada. Later on, it came to signify Junior “A” hockey supremacy when, in 1934, junior hockey in Canada was divided into “A” and “B” classes. In 1971, when junior “A” hockey was divided into major junior and Tier II junior A, the Memorial Cup was awarded to the higher category and was given to the major junior hockey champions of Canada. In 1972, a round-robin tournament format replaced the old playdown system to determine the champions. Since then, the champions of the Western Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Ontario Hockey League have met each spring in a round-robin series with the two top teams playing off in a sudden-death game to determine the Cup champions.
The Memorial Cup became an international trophy in 1983 as the tournament was held outside Canada for the first time, when the Portland Memorial Coliseum was the host arena. The hometown Winter Hawks took home the title that year to become the first non-Canadian based team to win the Memorial Cup. Portland again hosted the tournament in 1986 and Seattle played host in 1992. In 1991, the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League became the second U.S.-based team to claim the title. The Chiefs won the title again in 2008 in Kitchener.
Since the tournament adopted its current round-robin format in 1972, Western Hockey League teams have won the title 19 times, Ontario Hockey League teams have claimed 17 titles, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams have won the title 13 times.
The 2024 Memorial Cup will mark the 104th anniversary of the event, to be hosted by the Saginaw Spirit.