NHL Legends Star in This Emotional Tribute to the 125-Year-Old Stanley Cup

Timed to the playoffs, the ad celebrates hockey's history

The NHL is celebrating the Stanley Cup in its newest ad. NHL
Headshot of Christine Birkner

For the last century, NHL players have battled for the highest honor in hockey: having their names emblazoned on the 125-year-old Stanley Cup. The NHL is celebrating the cup’s history, as well as its own, with a new ad campaign that’s part of the league’s centennial celebrations this year.

The cup, one of the oldest trophies in professional sports, pre-dates the birth of the NHL, which was founded 100 years ago. In 1892, the cup was donated by Sir Frederick Arthur, Lord Stanley of Preston, to be presented to “the championship hockey club of the Dominion of Canada.”

The new campaign, “Spelling,” which was developed with creative shop Baby Bear’s Porridge, stars 23 NHL greats whose names appear on the cup: Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, Mike Modano, Bobby Orr, Sidney Crosby, Martin Brodeur, Jonathan Toews, Teemu Selanne, Dave Keon, Bobby Hull, Brett Hull, Mark Messier, Sergei Fedorov, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, Steve Yzerman, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Nicklas Lidstrom, Bryan Trottier, Bobby Clarke and Mike Bossy. It debuts during Game 1 of the conference finals this week.

“When you look at the Stanley Cup, the names jump out at you, and every one of them has a story,” said Brian Jennings, evp and chief brand officer at NHL. “When players get together and lift that cup for the first time, their emotions come pouring out. They’ve been dreaming about this moment since they were kids. The campaign focuses on that tradition.”

Earlier this year, all of the players in the spot were named to the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players of All Time, and were honored in a ceremony at the 2017 All-Star Game in Los Angeles. The NHL Centennial Fan Arena, an interactive fan experience featuring the Stanley Cup and digital displays, video and other historical memorabilia, is visiting all NHL markets across North America in 2017.

“[The Stanley Cup] is our best ambassador,” Jennings said. “It’s so recognizable and there’s so much equity in it. Even casual fans understand that each player gets his day to celebrate with the cup.”

While celebrating its history, the NHL is also working to reach out to the next generation of fans through programs like Learn to Play, which lowers the barrier to entry for playing hockey by providing free equipment to 4- to 8-year-olds. Its Future Goals program promotes STEM education in schools by offering hockey-related educational math and science modules to teachers.

“We’re always reaching to get younger [fans] and be more relevant,” Jennings said. “The younger generation values experiences like these. Quality storytelling is the bedrock of quality entertainment, so we’re making sure our players are also out there doing that.”

@ChristineBirkne christine.birkner@adweek.com Christine Birkner is a Chicago-based freelance writer who covers marketing and advertising.