May 28, 2009
Much has been written since Tuesday night when Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby(notes) went against all that the hockey gods teach us and decided to touch the Prince of Wales Trophy, later carrying it off the RBC Center ice.
Crosby's reason for breaking tradition? He left it alone a year ago and things didn't work out quite as planned.
One could say the "to touch/not to touch" debate is all hooey, especially since Detroit Red Wings captain Niklas Lidstrom left the Clarence Campbell Bowl alone after the Western Conference champions advanced to last year's Stanley Cup finals -- and that ended fairly successfully for Detroit.
It's all a matter of superstition, something for which NHL players are famously known.
The Toronto Star's Damian Cox? Not a fan of such superstitions:
Well, thank goodness for Sidney Crosby.
The Kid ended (hopefully) one of the truly moronic semi-traditions in hockey Tuesday night after the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched the Eastern Conference crown by sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes.
In recent years, team after team had declined even to touch the trophies for winning the Eastern or Western Conference, with the silly excuse being "that wasn't the trophy they wanted" in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
Even Crosby bought into it last year when the Pens won the east. But Tuesday night, he gratefully accepted the Prince of Wales Trophy from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, then carried it away into the arms of his joyous teammates.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Cox also doesn't believe in avoiding the logo on the floor of team lockers rooms, too.
Last night, subbing for injured captain Nicklas Lidstrom(notes), Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg(notes) went with what worked for the Red Wings last season and kept his paws off the Campbell Bowl. Unlike Crosby and the Penguins, not touching the trophy worked for the Red Wings, so why bother with tradition?
Over at PensBurgh, Hooks Orpik believes that trophy presentations are a reason to celebrate a season's accomplishments:
First of all, I'm happy the Sidney Crosby picked up the Prince of Wales trophy, posed for a few pictures and nonchalantly skated off the ice.
And while that's all well and good, a perfectly fine message to have, the Penguins deserved to have the happy moment to recognize their monumental achievement for such a huge season turnaround.
Digging into their hockey archives, ESPN found four instances since 1991 when a team's captain lifted their conference trophy and went on to win the Stanley Cup. Mario Lemieux (1991) and Scott Stevens (2000, 2003) both bucked tradition and left fingerprints on the Prince of Wales trophy. In 1997, Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman had no fear and lifted the Clarence Campbell Bowl and a week later was celebrating a Stanley Cup victory.
So, like many hockey superstitions and traditions, they may not make any sense to some fans or writers; but to the players, they're an important part of the hockey culture.
Whether it's tossing your cookies before a game, growing facial hair between the months of April and June, or becoming bosom buddies with the goal posts, these superstitions are one of the things that make hockey as unique as it is.