For Jews of a certain antiquity, Passover has been synonymous with Stanley Cup talks, but in 2022, the NHL champion will be determined long after Shavuot.
Several Jewish players have contributed to the prowess of their teams in the playoffs this year, most notably Zach Hyman of the Edmonton Oilers and Adam Fox of the New York Rangers.
And while neither The Oil nor the Blueshirts made it to the finals, the question remains – just how many Jews have hoisted Lord Stanley, and how many Jewish names have been immortalized on the Holy Grail of hockey, the oldest trophy for professional athletes in North America.
The trophy was donated in 1892 by Lord Stanley of Preston, then Governor General of Canada, and was to be presented to the Dominion Championship Hockey Club of Canada. The winners from 1893 to 1926 were determined by challenge matches and league play, with teams from all over the continent participating.
At the turn of the last century, Aaron and Bertha Rosenthal were leading members of the young Jewish community in Ottawa. Their son Martin was a board member of the early Silver Seven and Senators championship teams. The Stanley Cup was prominently displayed in the Sparks Street window of the family jewelry store (now the Birx Building in Ottawa). But with the exception of the 1907 and 1915 seasons, only the name of the winning team was recorded on the cup, not the names of the individual players.
In the 1920s, a new tradition emerged, and since 1925 the Stanley Cup is the only professional sports trophy in which the name of each member of the winning team is inscribed.
Charles Koch was probably the first Jew to participate in what were then called Stanley Cup matches. When Coach was active, the Lord Stanley Trophy was still a challenge trophy – including league champions from the National Hockey League, Pacific Coast Hockey League and Western Hockey League.
From 1922 through 1924, Coach skated for the PCHA Vancouver Maroons, who lost to the Montreal Canadiens in 1923 and the Ottawa Senator in 1924 in what are considered today’s semifinals.
Koch’s affiliation with Judaism is very weak at best. He was buried at the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Southfield, Michigan.
The honor of being Lord Stanley’s first Jewish name goes back to Cecil Hart, who served as the Montreal Canadiens manager/coach for three cup-winning teams. His name is inscribed on the thin ribbon on the top of the 1924 Cup, a first that the Habs won in the NHL, and on the silver rings associated with the Stanley Cup in 1930 and 1931.
Hart is credited with signing Howie Morenz, one of the game’s greatest players.
Cecil’s father, Dr. David Hart, donated the Hart Cup, awarded annually to the most important player in the National Hockey League, in 1924. The redesigned Hart Cup now recognizes the contribution of a father and son to the game.
In 1924-1925, Victoria Cougars triumphed. On their lists was winger Wilfred Harold “Jessy” Hart. Because of his popular hockey nickname, many hockey enthusiasts have erroneously concluded that Harold was a member of the tribe, but unfortunately this is not the case.
The first Jewish player to have his name inscribed on Lord Stanley was Sammy Rothschild, of Sudbury, Ontario. His team, the Maroons, hosted the first Stanley Cup playoffs at the Montreal Forum. Rothschild later competed with the Americans from New York, who recognized his market value as a Jewish player.
After his retirement, Sam returned to his hometown and coached the 1932 Memorial Cup-winning Sudbury Wolf Cubs. Before his death in 1987, he was the last surviving 1925-26 Marrons Stanley Cup champion.
That streak of 1925-1926 marked the last year the Challenge Cup was held. From this point forward, the NHL took full ownership of the Stanley Cup.
Toronto won the Stanley Cup in 1932, his first season at Maple Leaf Gardens, defeating the New York Rangers in three straight games. On their list was defender Alex Levinsky – whose hockey card included the nickname “Mine Boy”, a nod to his father’s ardent encouragement.
Levinsky was later distributed to New York and then to Chicago where in 1938, he patrolled the Blue Line for a second Stanley Cup win for the Black Hawks. Eight American athletes, including Syracuse-born Levinsky, skied with falcons. This will be the most American talent to win the Cup in nearly 60 years.
In the 1950s, the Detroit Red Wings became the first NHL team to go unbeaten in the postseason, inspiring an octopus on Olympic ice—the eight tentacles representing the games needed to win the Lord Stanley Cup.
Montreal’s Larry Zeddel was a late-season call-up for the Red Wings, appearing in 19 regular seasons and five playoffs with the 1952 Stanley Cup champions. “The Rock” was traded to the Blackhawks in 1953, but after a full season with Chicago, he was sold out. Banish him to the palace. He returned to the NHL with the 1968 Philadelphia Flyers. Zedel is tied for second place for the longest period of time between NHL appearances. He comes behind the Jewish goalkeeper Mo Roberts.
Ed Snyder’s contribution to the success of hockey in Philadelphia and the Atlantic region of the United States is incalculable. Most fittingly, he was the first Jewish owner to have his name inscribed on the 1974 and 1975 cups. Snider was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988. He founded the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, and the Flyers organization continues to do exceptional community work in his memory.
In 1979, Irving Grundman of the Montreal Canadiens became the second Jewish general manager to have his name engraved on the Holy Grail of hockey. Grundman served as president of Habs from 1978 to 1983.
Maurice Pilsberg, who opened the first Budget car rental franchise in Canada in 1962, had his name inscribed on the trophy after the Pittsburgh Penguins won it in 1992; He was the second Jewish team owner to be so immortalized.
Matthew Schneider, a veteran who made nearly 1,300 NHL games with 10 teams, had won his only Stanley Cup with the 1992-93 Canadians. He skated for Team USA at the 1998 and 2006 Winter Olympics and was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Israel. He is currently an executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association.
Mike Hartman was originally excluded from the 1994 New York Rangers Stanley Cup squad, because he did not play enough games to qualify. However, he was so respected by his teammates that they rallied on his behalf. The NHL relented and allowed his name to be scored in the last line with teammate Ed Olczyk. After his professional career, Hartmann led Team USA at the 2013 Maccabi Games hockey tournament in Israel. He now hosts a popular podcast on iTunes.
In 1997, the NHL decided to allow a maximum of 52 names in the cup, and included criteria for players and non-players. This allows teams to list individuals who they feel have made a significant contribution to the team’s success. Thus, we see longer lists and a few more Jewish names.
Colorado strength and conditioning coach Paul Goldberg has his name on the 2001 Cup; Dr. Barry Gerson Fisher, nicknamed “Minch” by colleagues and friends, was the New Jersey Devils team doctor for 33 years. His name appears on the 2000 and 2003 Cup
William M “Bill” Davidson, owner of Tampa Bay Lightning, is the first name engraved on the 2004 Stanley Cup. He is the only owner in the history of the sport to have won an NBA title (Detroit Pistons) and a Stanley Cup eight days away. The Detroit Shock basketball team had already claimed the WNBA title in April, the first time in the sport’s history that an owner had won championships in three different professional leagues within one year.
Davidson was inducted into the Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1986 and the NBA Hall of Fame in 2008. He died in 2009 and was posthumously inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
Under team owners Henry and Susan Samueli, the Anaheim Ducks became the first California team to win the Stanley Cup in 2007. The Jacobs family, no longer closely associated with their Jewish faith, owns the Boston Bruins, who won the cup in 2011. Colby Cohen was called up in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, but he never got dressed. He is in the team picture and got a ring but his name is not on the trophy
Jeffrey Solomon was part of the front office of the Los Angeles Kings who won the 2012 and 2014 Cup.
Washington Capitals assistant general manager and chief legal officer, Donald Fishman, got his name engraved on Lord Stanley in 2018. Steve Richmond played 159 NHL games from 1983 to 1989, but earned his name in the 2018 Cup as a caps manager. development. Washington included goalkeeping coach Mitch Korn on the list of names engraved on the 2018 Cup.
Jeff Finnick, who bought the struggling Tampa team in 2010 and personally paid for arena upgrades and invested heavily in the Florida community, has been rewarded with his name in back-to-back Stanley Cup. Jeff Halpern, who missed a game in 2005 to watch Yom Kippur, which spanned 14 years in the National Hockey League and included three seasons with the Bullets, is now an assistant coach with the team. His name is inscribed on the 2020 and 2021 trophies, as is the name of Assistant Equipment Manager Jason Berger.
Tampa Bay has the most Jewish names in the Stanley Cup and may add more in 2022 as they are currently in the Finals, hoping for a third straight victory.
And of course, no discussion of the Stanley Cup and our lantzmen would be complete without a mention of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. He has appeared in every playoff final since 1993, and presented the trophy to the winning team. For his efforts and true commitment to the game, he was inducted as a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2016 and of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.