Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Out with the old, in with the new: Czech teams to play for Masaryk Cup

Written for, with information from Václav Jáchim of

The world of hockey has the Stanley Cup, the Gagarin Cup, and now the Masaryk Cup.

The new championship trophy of the Czech Extraliga was unveiled to the media on Wednesday at the Clarion Hotel in Prague. Upon first glance, it was apparent that both the name and the appearance of the trophy were an enormous step up from it's predecessor.

Radek Bonk of Třinec awkwardly lifts the old, nameless trophy in
2011. Photo:
To begin with, the old trophy didn't really have a name. It was just casually referred to as "pohár mistrů" (champions' cup), and its appearance was equally as generic. Looking like something in the display window of a trophy shop, except much larger, it was awkward to hoist and prone to disaster. The championship teams of Pardubice damaged it in both 2005 and 2010 -- the first time it needed to be replaced altogether, while the club had to pay to have the second one repaired.

"It might sound funny now, but at the time it was not funny at all," APK president Tomáš Král said about the cup's problems. But while stories of early misadventures are now part of the lore of the Stanley Cup, the sport of hockey's most recognizable piece of hardware, The Extraliga's biggest prize seemed to receive nothing but scorn and ridicule. Finally, league owners decided that their teams should compete for a symbol that commanded both reverence and respect, both in appearance and in name.

"We considered several proposals, we took into account aesthetics, dimensions and other criteria," said Král about what the finished product should look like.

The Masaryk Cup. Photo:
The winning proposal was submitted by studio Artcore, and was built by Golfface, both Czech companies. It stands 73.8 cm tall and weighs approximately 15 kg. The main part is lightweight silver casing with gold plating and a stainless steel base. On the base, names of all future championship teams and players will be engraved year to year, much like the Stanley Cup.

Also like the Stanley Cup, the name has meaning to the roots of the sport in the country it represents as well. Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley of Preston was the Governor General of Canada, Queen Victoria's representative in the young dominion. The new Czech cup goes beyond that, to Czechoslovakia's first head of state.

"When searching for a name we were thinking about multiple personalities, inspired from abroad, and eventually decided on the TG Masaryk Cup."

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was the first president of Czechoslovakia, presiding from 1918 to 1935 and is one of the most respected figures in the nation's history. He is also connected to some significant Czech hockey firsts as well, donating the first domestic championship trophy in 1924 and presenting the winning team to the gold medalists at the 1933 World Championships in Prague. Lord Stanley's sons were big hockey fans and so were Masaryk's -- his son Herbert even played for HC Slavia Praha.

The new trophy will tour around the country during the 2013-14 season, appearing at a game in every Extraliga arena starting with the first game of the season on Thursday, when defending champion Plzeň hosts Vítkovice. Plzeň, of course, was the last winner of the old trophy, which will now be retired to the Czech Hockey Hall of Fame, which is scheduled to open in time for the 2015 World Championships.

"I think we've done it," Král happily declared. "I believe that the Masaryk Cup will be a worthy prize for a champion, and that it will give them their proper due."