The Rich History of The Calder Cup

While the hockey community remains fixated on the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring, plenty of fan bases across the nation have passionately been keeping close tabs on the American Hockey League postseason. Just as only one team can win the Stanley Cup, only one franchise will take home the prestigious Calder Cup. 

The AHL, which is the top development league for the NHL, is amidst its 88th season after first forming in 1936 when the Canadian-American Hockey League joined with the International Hockey League. 

Hockey has a rich tradition of naming annual trophies after celebrated founders and notable people in the sport, and the Calder Cup is no exception. 

Frank Calder, the NHL’s founding president, was extremely influential in the formation of the AHL and, therefore, the trophy awarded to the champions of the AHL was named in his honor. The NHL’s Calder Memorial Trophy is also named in Calder’s honor. The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given “to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition.”

Calder’s path to the NHL came following seven years in the newspaper business. He was elected secretary treasurer of the National Hockey Association. Three years later, in 1917, owners of the newly formed National Hockey League met at the Montreal Windsor Hotel and voted Calder the league’s first president. Under Calder’s watchful eye, the burgeoning professional league survived its growing pains and expanded to include what is today known as the “Original Six”—the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings.

Meanwhile, the AHL’s first season (1937) featured eight teams—the Buffalo Bisons, Cleveland Falcons, Pittsburgh Hornets, New Haven Eagles, Providence Reds, Springfield Indians, Philadelphia Ramblers and Syracuse Stars. In 1938, the Calder Cup trophy itself was first awarded to the Providence Reds. In 1996, George Parsons of the Syracuse Stars was presented the Calder Cup in a ceremony in Syracuse as it was believed Syracuse never received a trophy for their 1937 championship. 

In 2001, the trophy’s base was changed to include two tiers of plaques, which feature the rosters of each of the last 20 Calder Cup champions. Meanwhile, plaques from all previous champions are on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The entire Calder Cup trophy stands 24 inches tall and weighs 25 pounds. The bowl, made of sterling silver, is 12 inches high and eight inches in diameter. The hardwood base is made of Brazilian mahogany.

Through the years, a total of 33 different cities have had their AHL club win the Calder Cup led by Hershey (12) and Cleveland (10).

Springfield (seven), Rochester (six), Providence (five), Chicago (three) and Grand Rapids (two) are other cities with more than one title. On three occasions an AHL club and its NHL affiliate won the Calder Cup and Stanley Cup in the same season (1976 and 1977 Nova Scotia Voyageurs/Montreal Canadiens; 1995 Albany River Rats/New Jersey Devils).

Twenty-nine members of the Hockey Hall of Fame have won the Calder Cup in their careers, and more than 100 players and coaches have won both the Calder Cup and Stanley Cup in their careers, including John Carlson, Tyler Johnson, John Tortorella and Peter Laviolette.

It is no coincidence the American Hockey League’s playoff championship trophy shares a name with the NHL’s first president. Calder created a blueprint and helped push hockey into the mainstream of America and brought the game to cities throughout the nation, planting the seeds to grow the game and its rich traditions into what it has become today. 

 


Tom and Jerry Caraccioli are the authors of STRIKING SILVER: The Untold Story of America’s Forgotten Hockey Team.
Issue: 
2024-05

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