Following Sidney Crosby’s lead, Golden Knights don’t fear conference trophy |

Following Sidney Crosby’s lead, Golden Knights don’t fear conference trophy

Jonathan Bombulie
Vegas Golden Knights' James Neal (18), Deryk Engelland (5), goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) and the rest of the team celebrate after defeating the Winnipeg Jets during NHL Western Conference Finals, game 5, in Winnipeg, Sunday, May 20, 2018. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly (left) and Penguins Chris Kunitz (second to left), Sidney Crosby (second to right) and Evgeni Malkin pose with the Prince of Wales trophy. 'A heck of an accomplishment,' Kunitz said.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is one of the most superstitious athletes around.

It’s ironic, then, that his actions may have put an end to one of the NHL’s most intriguing superstitions of the last two decades.

Seconds after the clock struck zero and the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 Sunday to close out the Western Conference finals in five games, acting captain Deryk Engelland had a conversation with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury just before the teams engaged in the ceremonial postgame handshake.

They were discussing whether Engelland should touch the Clarence Campbell Bowl that NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly was about to present to him and his teammates.

In a superstition started by Philadelphia Flyers captain Eric Lindros in 1997, teams winning an NHL conference championship often do not celebrate with the trophy out of fear that such an action will prevent them from winning the award they really wanted to win in the next round.

In the West, the conference champ hadn’t touched the trophy since the 2004 Calgary Flames. Overall, neither conference champ touched the trophy in a five-year stretch from 2011 to 2015.

Engelland decided to touch the trophy.

“We decided as a group to take it because we went through the experience together,” Engelland told reporters afterward. “(Fleury) has been the backbone to our team, so more or less it came down to what he wanted to do.”

It’s not hard to see why Fleury wanted to touch the trophy.

In 2008, Crosby and his teammates followed the superstitious tradition and did not touch the Prince of Wales Trophy after beating the Flyers in the conference finals. They lost to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final in six games.

The following season, Crosby handled the trophy after beating Carolina to win the conference title. The Penguins won the Cup in seven games.

Over the past two seasons, the Penguins touched the conference championship trophy while their final opponents did not. That didn’t work out too well for the San Jose Sharks or Nashville Predators.

Given those results, it looks like the tradition of not touching the conference championship trophy is on thin ice.

For the record, historically speaking, the correct play is to touch the trophy.

According to a study done by the blog, teams that touch the conference championship trophy since 1997 are 10-7 in the Stanley Cup Final. Teams that don’t touch the trophy are 10-13.

In years where one team touches the conference championship trophy and the other does not, the touchers are 6-3 in the Final.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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