TO TOUCH OR NOT TO TOUCH

UPDATE: Henrik Sedin did not touch the Clarence S. Campbell bowl tonight when the Vancouver Canucks were crowned the Western Conference champions.

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In the above video you can see Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin and alternate captain Manny Malhotra officially accept the President’s Trophy from the NHL, signifying their place as the best team in the regular season for 2010-2011. What is interesting and what people had been wondering for days was Sedin going to touch the trophy. If you watch the video, you can see he nor Malhotra touch the trophy at all. In fact Sedin stays a respectable distance from the award, giving it a wide berth. Given the recognition of success the award represents, why would he treat it like a hand grenade?

If you’ve watched or followed professional sports you know pro athletes can be at times, a superstitious bunch. Professional hockey players are no different. There is a superstition that some players follow that the only trophy they should touch should be the final and ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. The Stanley Cup, of course, is the NHL’s trophy for the team that comes through the playoffs as the winner. That team is deemed the best in the league for that year. Interestingly, before the Cup is awarded, there are theoretically two trophies a captain could possibly touch on his way to the finals. One is the President’s Trophy and the other is trophy for conference he plays in (Campbell or Wales). For many years now, people have watched with great interest during the presentation of the conference champion trophies. Will the captain touch the trophy or not? If you believe the superstition, then the trophy should go untouched.

In recent years, winning Cup captains have gone back and forth between touching and not touching their respective conference silverware. In 2008, on his way to his first ever Stanley Cup finals, captain Sidney Crosby did everything by the book, as you might expect a young captain would. When he was presented with the Prince of Wales trophy, he did not touch it, probably not wanting to tempt fate. He and his Pittsburgh Penguins went on and lost to the Detroit Red Wings in six game in the finals. A year later, in 2009, Crosby again found himself a conference champion. Perhaps not wanting history to repeat itself, he chose this time to touch the trophy. Not only did he touch it, he let others hold it, and even skated off the ice with it. A far cry from the previous year. Interestingly, he did not raise the trophy over his head. There are some who believe the superstition does not have anything to do with contact with the trophy but that it should not be raised over the head (as that is reserved for only the Cup). Crosby and his team then promptly advanced to the finals where they defeated the Red Wings. To throw things completely off, in 2010, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, reverted back to the superstition and stood idly by the Clarence S. Campbell bowl, never making a motion towards it at all. Toews and his team went on to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers in the finals.

Given recent history, perhaps this superstition means absolutely nothing, as many superstitions do. In pro sports though, you want to get any little advantage you can get, even that advantage might be just in your head. On a final note, I have to mention that the last time the Vancouver Canucks went to the Stanley Cup finals in 1994, captain Trevor Linden did more than just touch the Clarence S. Campbell bowl. He raised it over his head and tilted it back so far that the top fell off. Now it would ridiculous to think such an act cost them the Cup but if you were a superstitious person, that’s for sure one way to tempt fate.

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