Since 1993, when it moved from its former location on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, the Hockey Hall of Fame has welcomed more than six million visitors to its home in historic Brookfield Place in downtown Toronto, a short walk from Air Canada Centre.
On Thursday, the Hall's vice-president and curator, Phil Pritchard, figuratively threw the keys to the magnificent hockey shrine to NHL.com for a private 60-minute self-guided tour.
What we offer here is just a fraction of the history that is assembled under the stained-glass roof above the Esso Great Hall, where the Stanley Cup sits among other priceless trophies and portraits of all enshrined members -- 268 players, 104 builders, and 16 referees and linesmen.
If you're a hockey fan, you owe yourself a pilgrimage. And plan to stay for a few hours, at least. You won't see everything, but you'll get a magical taste of hockey through the ages.
Words and photos by Dave Stubbs
Lord Stanley of Preston keeps an eye on his original cup, which dates to 1893, in what was once a bank vault.
There's a mirror above the cup, so visitors can view the early inscriptions inside the bowl.
And when a band is filled with the engraving of 13 teams, it slides one spot up the barrel of five bands, the top band then retired to the vault here.
Look from behind Lord Stanley's original cup and you'll see the modern Stanley Cup on display in the Esso Great Hall.
The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, could fill the Hall of Fame all by himself.
Here is a Gretzky showcase; and the Great Western Forum net into which he scored his 802nd regular-season goal -- the sum of the pucks stacked inside it -- on March 23, 1994, becoming the NHL's all-time leading scorer.
Beauty overhead: the stained glass domed ceiling over the Esso Great Hall.
The Canadiens' Montreal Forum dressing room is painstakingly recreated right down to coach Toe Blake's fedora.
Canadiens' icon Jean Béliveau wore his No. 4 with grace and class on his way to 1972 Hall of Fame induction.
Gorgeous, heavy wool jerseys worn decades ago, which, when wet, didn't dry out until after the season.
The historic 1972 Summit Series between Team Canada and the Soviet Union changed the face of hockey forever. The eight-game clash is remembered in several places at the Hall of Fame.
Hockey is a global game and it's widely celebrated in the Hall of Fame with a variety of displays.