O'Brien Trophy (ice hockey)

O'Brien Trophy
O Brien Trophy.jpg
Sport Ice hockey
Given for 1910–17: NHA champion
1921–1927: NHL playoff champion
1927–1938: NHL Canadian Division champion
1939–50: NHL playoff runner-up
First award 1910
Most recent None (Retired trophy)

The O'Brien Trophy, or O'Brien Cup,[1][2][3] as labelled on the trophy itself, is a retired trophy that was awarded in the National Hockey Association (NHA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) ice hockey leagues of North America from 1910 to 1950. It was originally donated to the NHA by Canadian Senator M. J. O'Brien in honour of his son, Ambrose O'Brien. The Cup was fabricated using silver from an O'Brien mine.

The Cup has been awarded under four definitions. From 1910 through 1917, it was awarded to the NHA champion. In 1921, the Cup was transferred to the NHL and awarded to the NHL playoff champion until 1926–27. From 1927–28 until 1937–38, it was awarded to the Canadian Division regular season champion. Starting with the 1938–39 season, it was awarded to the NHL playoff runner-up. After 1949–50, the Cup was retired and has not been awarded since. In total, the Cup has been awarded in 41 seasons to twelve different teams. The Cup is now in the collection of the Hockey Hall of Fame.


The Cup was donated to the National Hockey Association by Canadian Senator Michael J. O'Brien in honour of his son, Ambrose O'Brien, who was credited with the formation of the National Hockey Association, the forerunner to the NHL. The Cup was originally to be given to the NHA's championship team.[4] Made entirely from silver from the O'Brien mine, the trophy's value was estimated at CA$600 (over CA$11,946 in 2018 dollars[5]). Like the Stanley Cup, trustees were named for the trophy. These were NHA executives Harry Trihey, Emmett Quinn and T. Yates Foster.[6] Later, Stanley Cup trustee William Foran would become the sole trustee of the O'Brien Cup. On December 2, 1911, the NHA officially designated the trophy as the league's championship trophy.[7]

When the NHA was suspended in 1917, the Cup was held by the Montreal Canadiens. It remained in their care until 1921. In November 1921, it was announced that the Cup would be given over to the National Hockey League to be awarded annually to the NHL playoff champions. NHL president Frank Calder arranged with Ambrose O'Brien a new deed of gift. The Cup, which Calder had secured following the death of Montreal President George Kennedy, was then presented to the NHL champion Ottawa Senators.[8] In 1925, the NHL inaugurated the Prince of Wales Trophy, which also was presented to the NHL playoff champions.

From 1927–28 onwards, one year after the NHL expanded to two divisions in 1926, the Cup was awarded to the winner of the Canadian Division, while the Prince of Wales Trophy was awarded to the winner of the American Division.[9] It would be awarded under this definition until the end of the 1937–38 season.

The 1938–39 NHL season saw the NHL move back to a single division, and from that point on the Cup was awarded to the playoff runner-up.[10] The Cup was not formally awarded from 1939 to 1943 and it would not be until 1944 that the winning teams from that period were inscribed on the trophy. At the end of the 1949–50 NHL season the trophy was retired and has not been awarded since.[4] It is now in the collection of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario and is on display with other historic trophies in the entrance to the Panasonic Hometown Hockey exhibit.

The Montreal Canadiens have won it the most, having won the Cup eleven times. The Toronto Maple Leafs have won it the second most, a total of eight times, six as the Maple Leafs, once as the St. Patricks and once as the Torontos. The Detroit Red Wings have won the Cup the most times of any American team, having won it five times.


  • * = Defunct Teams
  • ^ =   Eventual Stanley Cup champions

NHA champion

NHL playoff champion

man in suit leaning on trophy in front of him
Frank Nighbor of the Ottawa Senators was a part of four O'Brien Cup winning teams.

NHL Canadian Division champion

NHL playoff runner-up

Source: Fischler(1983), p. 34.


  • ^ A. The Toronto club was operated by Arena Co., and had no nickname for the 1917-18 season.
  • ^ B. The trophy was not awarded during these years, but the Hockey Hall of Fame list these teams as the winners.
  • ^ C. These years are listed on page 34 of Fischler(1983), but are not listed on the Hockey Hall of Fame website. However, the team pictures for the 1925-26 Maroons and the 1926-27 Senators show the O'Brien Cup as one of the trophies they won in those seasons.
  • ^ D. These totals include the years for when the trophy was not awarded, but are included in the wins listed by the Hall of Fame.
  • ^ E. These totals include the years for when the trophy was awarded, but are not included in the wins listed by the Hall of Fame.

See also


  • Coleman, Charles (1966). Trail of the Stanley Cup. National Hockey League.
  • Fischler, Stan; Fischler, Shirley Walton (1983). The Hockey Encyclopedia. Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 0-02-538400-7.
  • Zweig, Eric (2012). Stanley Cup: 120 years of hockey supremacy. Firefly Books. ISBN 978-1-77085-104-7.
  1. ^ Coleman(1966) p. 189
  2. ^ "Hockey Begins". Time Magazine. Time Inc. November 28, 1927.
  3. ^ Jenish, D'Arcy (2008). The Montreal Canadiens: 100 years of glory. Random House of Canada Limited. ISBN 978-0-385-66324-3.
  4. ^ a b "O'Brien Trophy history". LegendsofHockey.net. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-09-24.
  5. ^ Canadian inflation numbers based on Statistics Canada tables 18-10-0005-01 (formerly CANSIM 326-0021) "Consumer Price Index, annual average, not seasonally adjusted". Statistics Canada. November 15, 2020. Retrieved November 15, 2020. and 18-10-0004-13 "Consumer Price Index by product group, monthly, percentage change, not seasonally adjusted, Canada, provinces, Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit". Statistics Canada. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  6. ^ "O'Brien Trophy Trustees Named". Ottawa Citizen. February 22, 1910. p. 8.
  7. ^ Zweig 2012, p. 284.
  8. ^ "O'Brien Trophy To Be Given To Ottawa". The Morning Leader. Regina, Saskatchewan. November 17, 1921. p. 14. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
  9. ^ "History of the Prince of Wales Trophy". LegendsofHockey.net. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-09-24.
  10. ^ "National Hockey League Decides on Six-Team Playoff for Stanley Cup". Montreal Gazette. September 26, 1938. p. 16. Retrieved July 27, 2011.