- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
There won’t be any superstitious drama about NHL teams touching the conference championship trophies in the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs — because they won’t be awarded this season.
“We’re not handing them out,” NHL Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer told ESPN on Friday.
The Prince of Wales Trophy, established in 1925, is awarded to the winner of the NHL’s Eastern Conference. The Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, established in 1967, is given to the Western Conference champion.
But the NHL played the 2021 season without designated conferences, realigning its teams into four new divisions. Travel restrictions at Canada’s border necessitated that the league’s seven Canadian teams be placed in their own division. The 24 U.S. teams were geographically realigned to cut down on travel, for financial and COVID safety reasons.
Because the North Division stretched across the entirety of Canada, having Eastern or Western conferences didn’t make sense this season. Mayer said the league had discussions about what to do with the Wales and Campbell trophies very early in the realignment process. There was consideration given to handing them out as part of “divisional champion” trophies or to the Stanley Cup finalists. Instead, it was decided not to hand them out at all.
“There are going to be things we always will remember about this season, and one of them is that we never handed the [conference] trophies out,” Mayer said.
The conference championship trophies have a special place in Stanley Cup playoff lore. There’s a decades-long superstition that touching the championship trophy gives a team bad luck in trying to win the Stanley Cup in the next round.
In 2015, the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t touch the Prince of Wales Trophy, then lost in the Stanley Cup Final. Last postseason, defenseman Victor Hedman defied tradition and lifted the trophy after the Lightning defeated the New York Islanders in the conference final. Tampa Bay went on to win the Stanley Cup over Dallas.
“It didn’t work last time,” Hedman said after the conference final. “That was a no-brainer for us.”
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