The tradition of awarding Olympic medals dates back to 1896, and since then every medal design has been different.

A unique collection featuring every Olympic medal design in history exists only in Switzerland, and it’s never been outside the Olympic Museum — until now.

Phil Pritchard, the keeper of Lord Stanley’s Cup, has bought the collection to Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame. Moving those medals turned out to be special mission.

“The magnitude of the travel insurance issue was something we’d never dealt with before,” says Pritchard by phone. “In the end, (we) had to bring in them by hand. That was a real eye opener at the border, when we were asked if we had anything to declare.

“It’s a much bigger deal than, say, bringing a bottle of wine into the country,” he adds.

Pritchard and a colleague transported the near-priceless payload first by train from Lausanne to Geneva and then to Zurich. From there they flew to Toronto. “It was an honour to carry them, “says Pritchard, “just like hoisting the Cup is.”

The collection includes examples of every Olympic medal design, including all the Winter Olympic medals, which started in 1920.

The Winter Olympic medals have had no design restrictions at all. They’re like a history of what we imagine victory looks like. For Pritchard, they constitute a diplomatic coup.

“The exhibit is part of our building relations with the IIHF (International Ice hockey Hall of Fame),” explains Pritchard, “Our only regret is that we can’t keep the exhibit longer.”

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