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Why Portland is on the Stanley Cup

The Rosebuds were engraved on hockey’s biggest prize.

An old time photo of a hockey team

Players used minimal protective equipment and injuries were common.

Photo via Oregon Encyclopedia

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Did you know that Portland had the first US team to carve its name on professional hockey’s biggest prize, the Stanley Cup, despite never technically winning it? Let’s take this on-the-ice story off the ice, shall we?

Blooming possibilities

On November 9, 1914, the Portland Ice Arena opened, covering two Slabtown blocks off 20th Avenue, between Northwest Marshall and Northrup streets. At the time, it was thought to be the largest artificial ice rink in the world, and its allure proved too much to ignore for the owners of the financially struggling New Westminster Royals. They moved the team to Portland, making it the first professional hockey outfit in the US.

An old time photo of a building that resembles and air craft hangar but is actually an ice arena

20 miles of pipes + a 12 degree brine kept the rink’s surface frozen. | Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Pioneering American hockey

A largely forgettable inaugural season (nine wins and nine losses) still saw Portland pick up a title — they became known as the “Uncle Sams,” a moniker given to them by the US press and their Canadian opponents in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association.

So close to the cup

By the second season (1915-16), the Portland “Rosebuds,” as they were now called thanks to their affinity to the Rose City, turned things around, winning their league and securing a fight for the Stanley Cup with the National Hockey Association’s best team, the Montreal Canadiens. Ultimately, Portland came up short, losing on a late goal in the deciding Game 5. The entire series was played on foreign soil — we like to think our boys would’ve triumphed on level ice.

Although they never officially gained the ultimate crown, they were allowed to engrave “Portland Ore. / PCHA Champions / 1915–16" across the Stanley Cup’s 1909 base ring, and it remains on the championship trophy that’s given out by the NHL today.

Etched in history

Like most instances of change, the newly introduced east vs. west format that pitted the National Hockey Association against the Pacific Coast Hockey Association for the Stanley Cup was quite unpopular. For decades before, it had been decided by official challenges organized by trustees, similar to boxing.

Because the Rosebuds had bested the 1915 Stanley Cup holders — the Vancouver Millionaires — in their west coast league, they would’ve taken the title under the previous regulations. Many actually considered Portland to be the true owners of the Cup and honestly, that’s a power play we can get behind.

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