Canada's Holy Grail

Lord Stanley's Political Motivation to Donate the Stanley Cup

By (author) Jordan B. Goldstein
Categories: Ice hockey, Winter sports, Sports and Active outdoor recreation
Publisher: University of Toronto Press
Paperback : 9781487521349, 342 pages, October 2021

Table of contents

List of Illustrations, Maps, Photographs


Contentions, Argument, Interpretation
A Note on Method and Methodology
Contribution to the Body of Knowledge

Section I: The National

1. Canada 1888

Domestic Affairs: Expansion and Consolidation
Foreign Affairs: Sovereignty and Dependence
Ideological Battle

2. Enshrining the National

Not a True Nation
The Genesis of Nationalized Sport in Great Britain
Nationalized Sport in the United States
The Mixed Political Heritage of Confederation
British Origins of Canadian Sport
American Permutation of Canadian Sport 
Canadian Nationalized Sport
Nineteenth-Century Political Thought and the Evolution of Nationalized Sport

Section II: The Personal

3. An Honoured Member of Parliament

The Early Life of Frederick Arthur Stanley
The Politics of the 14th Earl of Derby
The Politics of Frederick Stanley: Practical Governance
The Politics of Frederick Stanley: Emergent Progressivism
Towards a New Liberalism

4. Overseeing the Crown Dominion

Lord Stanley’s Governance in Canada
Domestic Governance
International Governance
Canadian Travels
The Role of Sport
Sport and the Stanley Family
Stanley and Canadian Sports
The Stanley Family and Winter Sport
Defining the National

Section III: The International

5. What Does It Mean to Be Canadian?

Debates over Canada’s Future
Canada First and the Birth of Canadian Nationality
Unlimited Reciprocity, Continental Union, and Annexation
Wilfrid Laurier and Unrestricted Reciprocity
Protectionism, Imperialism, and Progressivism
Federal Election of 1891
Stanley’s Position 
The Use of Sport to Promote National Identity
Imperial Federation and Progressivism
Sport in the Promotion of Imperial Connection
The Place of Ice Hockey
The Role of the Stanley Cup
Canada is a British Nation

6. National Sport, the State, and Political Thought

Philosophical Revolution 
Lord Stanley and Canada 

Notes on Sources
Literature Review
Sources of Note
Primary Sources


In 1892, Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley donated the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup – later known as the Stanley Cup – to crown the first Canadian hockey champions.

Canada’s Holy Grail documents Lord Stanley’s personal politics, his desire to affect Canadian nationality and unity, and the larger transformations in Anglo-liberal political thought at the time. This book posits that the Stanley Cup fit directly within Anglo-American traditions of using sport to promote ideas of the national, and the donation of the cup occurred at a moment in history when Canadian nationalists needed identifying symbols. Jordan B. Goldstein asserts that only with a transformation in Anglo-liberal thought could the state legitimately act through culture to affect national identity.

Drawing on primary source documentation from Lord Stanley’s archives, as well as statements by politicians and hockey enthusiasts, Canada’s Holy Grail integrates political thought into the realm of sport history through the discussion of a championship trophy that still stands as one of the most well-known and recognized Canadian national symbols.


"Goldstein’s research is fascinating, and his book allows readers to understand a unique part of Canada’s history and identity. It also tells us how a trophy donated by a Governor General became an enduring symbol of the country. Canada’s Holy Grail is well suited for anyone who loves hockey, Canadian history, and Canadian political thought."

- Rob Alexander