Alex Diaz

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The worst superstition in the modern NHL

Hockey is full of superstitions: Don’t step on your dressing room logo; Don’t shave in the playoffs; And most of all, your captain must never touch the trophy after winning the Conference Final. That last one is easily the most meaningless, and yet this marks the fourth consecutive Stanley Cup Final where neither team captain touched their respective trophy.* The logic behind it is that the only trophy that matters is the Stanley Cup, and you don’t want to jinx yourself. Don’t touch the trophy. Don’t even acknowledge its existence. As far as you know, the Campbell Bowl and Prince of Wales Trophy are Sirens of hockey, tempting innocent men to doom in the next round.

The NHL website states that since 2001, teams that touch their trophies are 4-5 in the Final. Two of those matches (New Jersey vs Colorado, 2001; Carolina vs Detroit, 2002) were between teams where both captains made the agonizing decision to make physical contact with a prize they’d earned. I decided to go a bit further, back to 1997. Since then, there have been seven matches between teams where one touched the trophy and the other did not. They occurred in 1997, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, and 2010, and the team that touched the trophy has a 4-3 record. Not exactly damning. There have also been four years where both teams touched — 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2002 — so obviously this superstition doesn’t hold much sway.

In fact, not touching the trophies is a pretty recent phenomenon. Since 1997, there have been five Finals (excluding the current one) where neither team touched the trophy: 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Some players aren’t even consistent in what they do. In the 2008 match between Pittsburgh and Detroit, neither Crosby nor Lidstrom made contact with their trophies, and Pittsburgh lost. The next year the teams met again, but this time Crosby had grabbed the Prince of Wales Trophy, took a photo with Malkin and Gonchar, and then skated around with it. Pittsburgh went on to win. Other teams skate around the issue, figuratively and literally: In 2011 Boston won the trophy and didn’t touch it. Instead, they did this:

The next round, they beat the Canucks in seven games. While it doesn’t count as touching the trophy, it’s certainly not ignoring it. It all boils down to this: If the Hockey Gods truly exist, they’re pretty lenient.

*The New York Rangers have the distinction of not having a captain this year. Regardless, they avoided the Prince of Wales Trophy.

Category: Hockey

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