The History of the NHL Threepeat

The Tampa Bay Lightning are currently the bookies’ favourite to take 2022’s Stanley Cup (sorry Carl). Having already done the double by lifting the 2020 and 2021 Cup, a third consecutive cup would be a massive achievement for Jon Cooper and his team. I can’t remember the last time a team won three consecutive cups whereas there’s been a few doubles in the last few decades. So how rare is the threepeat? Let’s take a look:

The Pre 1915 Era

The first team to maybe do the triple was the Montreal Hockey Club of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada. Kind of. Montreal’s first win was in 1893, they were awarded the cup as they finished top of the standings. That’s how it worked back then. The following season, Montreal were tied at the top with Ottawa, and the Montreal Victorias, and the Quebec Hockey Club. In a five team league, four teams finished 5-3-0*. As such there would be playoffs because that’s also how it worked back then. Quebec dropped out and Ottawa were given a bye. Montreal beat Montreal and then beat Ottawa in the final to win cup #2.

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Ottawa won the league in 1895 and thus the Stanley Cup, however the trustees of the cup (as with now, it wasn’t owned by one particular league), decided there needed to be a challenge game with between Montreal and Queens University. Montreal successfully defended the cup, technically winning three in a row, however because Ottawa won the league, they were the team presented with the silverware. Montreal had won twice legitimately and then defended, but whether or not that’s considered a triple is probably up for debate. Preferably over a pint.

* the only team not to qualify for the playoffs were the Montreal Crystals, who went 0-8-0.

After this, it’s all a bit of a blur. The cup was essentially contested by whichever team from whichever league fancied a crack at it, often several times in the same season. If the trustees approved it, the challenge was fair game. The Ottawa Silver Sevens were awarded the cup 11 times in four seasons. Absolute chaos.

1915-1926 The League vs League Era

Common sense had prevailed, gone were the adhoc challenges. Although the Stanley Cup was still contested between leagues, the format was more sensible. That said, no team managed a threepeat.

1927 – Today

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Despite doubles by the Canadiens and Red Wings, it wasn’t until 1949 that the NHL got its first threepeat. In 1947, the Toronto Maple Leafs saw off the Habs in six games to get their name etched on the trophy, followed that with a 4-0 sweep of Detroit in 1948, then did the same the following season. On April 17th, 1949, The Leafs made history by becoming the first NHL team to lift three consecutive cups. It was the sixth time that coach Hap Day‘s name would be engraved on the cup.

By 1956, the Maple Leafs had won the most Stanley Cups (I know, it’s weird), but that was about to change. Toronto’s compatriots Montreal had the desire, and more importantly the skaters to challenge Toronto’s burgeoning dynasty. Between 1956 and 1960, coach Toe Blake‘s team would not only match the threepeat, but add two more wins to achieve an (as of today) unmatched streak of five consecutive wins.

The push for six was crushed by the Chicago Black Hawks in 1961, however the Maple Leafs boxed off their second threepeat by taking home the 1962, ’64 and ’65 cups. Starting an eight year period where custody of the cup never dipped below the 49th parallel. The Canadiens added four more cups between ’76 and ’79, taking their total to an astonishing 24.

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There was to be no repeat of the fivepeat though, as it was the turn of the New York Islanders to surprise everyone by not just winning their first Stanley Cup in 1980, but also their second, third and fourth. That fourth was also their last, giving all those early fans a lifetime of disappointment (sorry Matt).

That was the to be the last time an NHL team would win three (or more) consecutive Stanley Cups. The Maple Leafs have done it twice, so have the Canadiens, while the Islanders have managed it once. Can the Lightning become the 4th team to threepeat? Ask me again in a few weeks.

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