Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Touching the trophy: Does it make a difference?

This year's Eastern Conference Final series seemed short on controversy, what with the Pens taking Carolina to the woodshed in 4 straight games. No surprise, then, that the buzz from last night's game concerned something relatively trivial: Sidney Crosby's decision to pick up the Prince of Wales Trophy and carry it off the ice.

But is there any truth to the notion that the Wales and Campbell trophies carry bad mojo?

The superstition appears to have arisen in the mid-90s, so this analysis begins in 1994 -- the year before the Devils shocked a Red Wings team that had paraded the Campbell Trophy after their Western Conference victory. In a couple of seasons (1996 and 1999) I couldn't find clear evidence based on a film clip or still photo. If you know what happened in those seasons, speak up!

In the final analysis, the numbers are ambiguous. Only 7 of 28 Cup finalists have refused to touch their conference trophy (not counting years in which both refused), and those teams have gone 3-4 in the Finals round. Between 1995 and 2003, 7 consecutive Cup winners had touched the conference championship trophy after the previous round. However, the past 4 consecutive champions were non-touchers.

Here are the specifics (the hyperlinks provide visual evidence, asterisks denote the Cup winner):

Pittsburgh (Crosby) - No
Detroit (Lidstrom) - No*

Ottawa (Alfreddson) - Yes
Anaheim (Niedermayer) - No*

Carolina (Brind'Amour) - No*
Edmonton (Smith) - No

Tampa Bay (Andreychuk) - No*
Calgary (Iginla) - Yes

Devils (Stevens) - Yes*
Mighty Ducks (Kariya) - No

Hurricanes (Francis) - Yes
Red Wings (Yzerman) - Yes*

Devils (Stevens) - Yes
Avalanche (Sakic) - Yes*

Devils (Stevens) - Yes*
Stars (Hatcher) - No

Sabres (Peca) - No
Stars (Hatcher) - ?*

Capitals (Hunter) - Yes
Red Wings (Yzerman) - Yes*

Flyers (Lindros) - No
Red Wings (Yzerman) - Yes*

Panthers (Skrudland) - Yes
Avalanche (Sakic) - ?*

Devils (Stevens) - Yes*
Red Wings (Yzerman) - Yes

Rangers (Messier) - No*
Canucks (Linden) - Yes

It'll be interesting to see what Nicklas Lidstrom does if (when?) the Red Wings close out the Hawks tonight.

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Anonymous said...

Pittsburgh (Crosby) - Yes
Detroit (Lidstrom) - No*

That's wrong.

In 2008 Crosby did not touch the trophy. That's why he touched it this year.

Tom said...

Corrected... thanks for the heads-up.

Anonymous said...

1996 panthers touched it

RuthenianCowboy said...

Mario Lemieux skated it around the ice in at least 1991. I think 1992 as well, but I can't confirm that.

He also touched the President's Trophy in 1993. D'Oh.

Anonymous said...

Trevor Linden touched it in 94 (and not only that, but raised it over his head and dropped the lid).

Needless to say, the Canucks cup drought is still ongoing.

ogie said...

1994 Mark Messier did not touch the Wales Trophy.

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. [/sarcasm]

Tom said...

Added some of the new dates and revised the numbers. I'll push back to the Pens in the early '90s if we can find some kind of source material.

Anonymous said...

2001 Stevens should be no. He lifted the trophy in 1995, and had a team picture taken with it in 2000 and 2003. The one time he didn't pick up the trophy was 2001, and they lost.

Anonymous said...

Who the hell cares. It dosen't matter whether you touch the damn trophy or not. Or if you grow beards. Or if you put your left skate on before your right. The fact that the Pens touched showed they realize there is nothing to it. Fact two is that only one team gets to win their respective conference titles, same with the regular season overall points title, so it is still an accomplisment. Wonder if Barca and Man U tocuhed their trophy for their league wins. It's the same thing.

Unknown said...

See and the articles there for the 91 and 92 Penguins Cup Winners. Lemieux did touch it both times and the Pens won. Also, Crosby apparently talked to Bill Guerin before grabbing the hardware and Guerin gave the go-ahead nod. They didn't last year and lost, so why not this year?

Unknown said...

The whole bad-karma-mojo thing is a lot of superstitious bunk, the examples you provide show at a glance that there really is no correlation between whether you touch or if you win. And the evidence right there may even show the opposite correlation: if you touch it, you have a better chance of winning!

Anonymous said...

It's not a matter of touching the trophy, it's how much the team celebrates the slightly lower trophy. I noticed that when a team overcelebrates before they win the Stanley Cup, they lose the big one. That's why teams that are finals 'virgins' don't win the Stanley Cup.

Anonymous said...

Mark Messier did not touch the trophy, I think it is all superstitious. I heard Mark Messier is playing in the Sports Legends Challenge this fall. Does anyone know how you can enter to compete with him in the event?