SUN Hockey Pool

Legal faceoff over Stanley

SAM PAZZANO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

A group of recreational players known as the "Wednesday Nighters" are facing off in court against the National Hockey League to reclaim the Stanley Cup.

These middle-aged hockey players don't want to play for Canada's "Holy Grail" themselves. The Stanley Cup -- awarded to the NHL's champions -- should still go to the best of the best on ice, Gard Shelley says.

UCC OLD BOYS

However, he and David Burt, two members of the pick-up league of Upper Canada College "old boys," decided to challenge for the Cup after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman cancelled the 2004-05 season.

"Our clients want the court to declare that the Stanley Cup is a charitable trust and not the NHL's property," said the group's lawyer, Tim Gilbert, who's working pro bono on the case.

"We acknowledge the NHL's right to award the cup to its annual champion. In fact, we're fans. That doesn't change the charitable intent of Lord Stanley that the trophy must be awarded annually to the best team playing hockey at the time."

Lord Stanley of Preston, who donated the cup in 1892, intended it to be an annual award, Gilbert said.

"It is clear that Lord Stanley intended to create a trust, not for the benefit of the original trustees, or any individual or league," Gilbert said.

"By these terms, the cup cannot be held hostage or be the subject of a private collective bargaining agreement, as is currently the case," said Gilbert, who filed an application under the Charities Accounting Act, alleging a breach of trust for a charitable purpose, at the Ontario Superior Court.

"What if the NHL is suspended for years, or uses replacement players? Our clients want the issue decided once and for all," Gilbert said.

"We don't take this lightly. The Stanley Cup is the greatest sports trophy anywhere, ever," Shelley said. "It is unique and a huge part of our heritage and culture."

It is coveted by "everyone who plays, watches or takes their 5-year-old to hockey at five in the morning," he added.

The group has a court date set for July 18, but is trying to get an earlier date.

An NHL spokesman declined to comment.


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