It’s hard to find a sport on earth with more superstitions and folklore than hockey. Everything from the stars of the game to beards in the playoffs, the NHL is full of tradition.
One of the biggest traditions in the sport is not touching the conference trophy. When the Nashville Predators won the Clarence Campbell Bowl, which is awarded to the victor of the Western Conference, the team elected not to touch the trophy.
The same is usually done in the Eastern Conference with the Prince of Wales Trophy — nobody touches it. It’s one of many fun traditions in the NHL, but is there any truth to the superstition? Are teams cursed if they touch the conference trophy? Let’s take a look at history:
History Behind No Touching
As the superstition goes, if one touches the Prince of Wales or Clarence Campbell Trophy, then one is jinxed in the Stanley Cup Final. It’s not the trophy teams really want.
But it wasn’t always this way. The NHL first awarded the Prince of Wales Trophy in 1982, and the New York Islanders proudly touched the hardware. Captains such as Denis Potvin, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Steve Yzerman, Scott Sevens and Joe Sakic all touched their conference trophies and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Not touching the conference trophy became a tradition around the turn of the century. In the last decade, only three teams have touched the conference trophy. Interestingly, two of them lost in the Stanley Cup.
Ironically, two of the teams that have touched the trophy since 2007 are the Ottawa Senators and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ottawa won its only Eastern Conference Championship in 2007 and touched the Prince of Wales Trophy. They lost in the Stanley Cup Final against the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
Since 2004, in years where one team touched the conference trophy and the other didn’t, the team that did touch it is 2-3. The Penguins, though, have the two victories.
Sidney Crosby Proves Tradition a Myth
“Sid the Kid” lives and breathes hockey, so when he led the Penguins to his first conference championship in 2008, he absolutely stayed away from the Prince of Wales Trophy. Pittsburgh went on to lose the Stanley Cup to the Detroit Red Wings in six games.
The following season, Crosby picked up the trophy, shocking the hockey world by breaking tradition. But there was a reason behind his madness.
“We didn’t touch the trophy last year, and obviously we didn’t have the result we wanted,” Crosby said back in May of 2009 according to NHL.com. “We figured we’d touch it this year. Although we haven’t accomplished exactly what we want, we still accomplished something here. You know, we can still enjoy it.”
Pittsburgh fans know how that season ended. The Penguins upset the mighty Detroit Red Wings in seven games.
As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Crosby, again, picked up the Prince of Wales Trophy last season when the Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning after seven games. Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in six games.
Picking up the Prince of Wales Trophy actually appears to be good luck in the Steel City. Lemieux embraced the trophy as well in 1991 and 1992, parading around the ice with the hardware in his hands. Pittsburgh won both of those Stanley Cup series’ as well.
What Will Happen Thursday?
The Penguins are a perfect 4-0 in the Stanley Cup when they touch the Prince of Wales Trophy, including 2-0 with Crosby. He might be breaking recent hockey tradition, but it’s clear Crosby is a superstitious athlete and his tradition bucks the trend. Our prediction is he will once again pick up the trophy if the Penguins win Game 7.
As for Senators captain Erik Karlsson, it’s a little bit tougher to predict. He’s never been in this position, so there’s probably a pretty good chance he will honor recent tradition and not touch the trophy.
Senators history would suggest that’s the correct decision. The last and only Senators team to win the Eastern Conference touched the trophy and didn’t win the Stanley Cup.
Regardless of what happens in the game, the drama clearly won’t end when the clock hits zero. Someone is going to win the Prince of Wales Trophy on Thursday night. Will they touch it? Fans will have to wait and see to find out.
Dave Holcomb is excited to join The Hockey Writers team, covering the Pittsburgh Penguins. Holcomb began his NHL work as a fantasy columnist at The Sports Network. In 2015, Holcomb joined the fantasy NHL team at FanRag Sports, where he eventually worked into a beat writer position, covering both the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. He continues to cover the Metropolitan division, along with the NFL and Syracuse basketball, for FanRag Sports. To find more of his work, follow Holcomb on Twitter at @dmholcomb.