Sir Montagu Allan--a native of Montreal, Quebec, and former president of the Montreal Jockey Club whose horses had won the prestigious Queen's Plate on numerous occasions--is synonymous with outstanding amateur hockey competition in Canada. His donation of a cup bearing his name in 1908 ensured that there would be a symbol to which many of the top amateur clubs in the nation could aspire each year.
When the Stanley Cup was restricted to professional clubs, a tremendous void suddenly opened up for amateur teams, who had no crown to fight for. The lack of a suitable amateur trophy was addressed by William Northey, a strong voice in the amateur hockey circles of Montreal. Northey successfully persuaded his friend, Sir Montagu Allan, to donate a trophy that would represent the highest level of achievement for amateur teams across Canada.
The Ottawa Cliffsides were the first holders of the Allan Cup, but they soon lost it after a series against Queen's University. At the time, all challenges for the Allan Cup had to be approved by a board of trustees. When the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association was formed in 1914, the Allan Cup was officially adopted by the new body as the preeminent senior amateur trophy in the country. Competition for the cup initially conformed to existing regulations, but 14 years later the Allan Cup was donated outright to the CAHA.
Sir Montagu Allan's contribution to hockey fostered one of Canada's oldest competitive traditions, involving communities from every corner of the country. On a number of occasions, the Allan Cup winners represented the nation at the World Hockey Championships or Olympic Games. The Winnipeg Falcons, Toronto Granites, Toronto Varsity Grads, Kimberley Dynamiters, Trail Smoke Eaters, Penticton Vees, Whitby Dunlops and Belleville McFarlands all followed up Allan Cup triumphs with Olympic or World Championship gold medal performances.
After the formation of the Canadian national team program for international play in 1964, the Allan Cup became strictly a national senior competition. Although dreams of gold medal glory were dashed, local passion to bring prize the home to such places as Petrolia, Ontario, and Stephenville, Newfoundland, remained a powerful motivator for hockey players in senior leagues.
By the 1990s, the proliferation of minor professional leagues, particularly in the United States, diminished the number of players available for Canadian senior hockey. Nonetheless, the competition carried on until the Stony Plain Eagles became the last Allan Cup winners of the 20th century.
Sir Allan's significant contribution to the game was recognized in 1945 when he was elected as a charter member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Builders category. He passed away in September 1951, but as the new century dawned, the annual competition bearing his name continued to bring people together and his name will forever live on in amateur hockey lore as Lord Stanley's does in the NHL's.