Tampa Bay Lighting captain Steven Stamkos not touching the Prince of Wales Trophy. (Getty Images)
Hockey has some of the best playoff traditions. The handshake line after a completed series is possibly the best one. For me there is nothing better than that in the entire sports world. After several games of trying to figuratively beat each other to death on the ice the two teams shaking hands is a welcome sight, even if some of them don’t want to be so gentlemanly. In recent years there’s been word of some not-so-friendly things being said during them, but it really should be like the commercials for Las Vegas; what happens in the line should stay in the line.
Playoff beards are something that originated in hockey that have now moved on to many of the other sports. Started by the New York Islanders in the early 1980s during their championship run now every hockey team does it. It’s funny because no matter how bad the beard looks on a player he’ll keep growing it until his team is eliminated. Another funny thing is when the “pink hats” jump on to a team’s bandwagon as the team gets further into a playoff run and then the “pink hats” not recognizing players when they eventually shave off those beards, as happened in Boston after the Bruins won and several beardless players walked by screaming fans who had no idea who those guys were.
Unfortunately hockey now has one of the worst traditions ever in sports. Recently, and yes, it is recently, the newly crowned conference champion does not touch the Prince of Wales Trophy or Clarence Campbell Bowl after winning them. Last night after NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly presented the Prince of Wales Trophy to Tampa Bay for being Eastern Conference champions Lightning captain Steven Stamkos stood next to it on a table, had a few pictures taken with it, and skated away from it as if the trophy was some sort of anthrax infested vessel. It’s a good bet that the winner of tonight’s Chicago at Anaheim game seven won’t touch the Clarence Campbell Bowl either.
I get that the conference champion trophy isn’t the prize players were ultimately playing for, but you have to win one to have a chance to capture the Stanley Cup. Why not celebrate winning the conference championship my hoisting the trophy over your head? I understand not skating around with it, especially on your opponent’s home ice, but I flat out don’t get acting like that history laden trophy doesn’t exist. It’s a prize you win along the way, and you’re the only team that’s going to win that trophy that season. Don’t be afraid, celebrate with it.
It’s also not like it matters if a team decides not to touch it. If both teams touch it one of them still wins, and if neither does one still loses. You have no worse chance if you touch your trophy and the other team doesn’t, nor is your chance any better if you don’t and they do. You don’t score more or less goals by touching or not touching the trophies, and it doesn’t help or hinder your goaltender from making any saves.
So captains, pick up the damn trophy. Celebrate what it means with your team and your fans, and after you skate off the ice with it put it down on a table in the locker room and get ready to take on your next opponent. Because beating them four times is what wins you the Stanley Cup, and touching or not touching any other trophy doesn’t matter one bit.