Very Superstitious: Oilers, Panthers keep distance from conference championship trophies

By Sportsnet Staff

The Stanley Cup Final is set between the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers, but both teams took a cautious approach when it came to celebrating their respective conference wins.

On Saturday night, the Panthers — led by captain Aleksander Barkov — not only refused to touch the Prince of Wales Trophy but kept a very respectable distance from the Eastern Final hardware after beating the New York Rangers in Game 6.

On Sunday night, the Oilers followed suit, keeping their distance from the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl as they posed for the ceremonial photo after defeating the No. 2-seeded Dallas Stars.

It’s one of the many longstanding superstitions that NHLers have in the post-season, stemming from the belief that the only trophy they should hoist come playoff season is the Stanley Cup — the true championship trophy.

Like most superstitions, it’s impossible to know if it will have any impact on the Stanley Cup Final, but Barkov and his Panthers sure aren’t going to take the risk their second time around.

In 2023, the Panthers chose to hoist the trophy after their Cinderella playoff run saw them sweep Cup favourites Carolina Hurricanes to make an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. They lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games, and this year they would very much like to avoid that same fate.

“We touched it last year and it didn’t work for us,” Panthers forward Sam Bennett told reporters on Saturday night. “We thought we’d try something different this year.”

Likely at the request of head coach Paul Maurice, who seemed to give explicit instructions to Barkov prior to the ceremony.

“He also told me (not to touch it) last year,” Barkov told reporters. “This year, I think we all agreed we were not going to touch it.”

For the Oilers, they certainly weren’t taking any chances when they were presented with the Western Conference Championship hardware for the first time since 2006.

“That’s something we’ve been thinking about all day, to be honest,” Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl said when asked about the decision not to touch the trophy. “It was just a collective decision.”

Though captain Connor McDavid has a superstitious streak — demonstrated when he showed up to Games 4, 5 and 6 wearing the same suit — he wasn’t prepared to give too much credence to this particular decision.

“They (the Panthers) didn’t touch it, we didn’t touch it. Someone’s gotta win.”

You can watch the two Conference champs go head-to-head in the Stanley Cup Final, beginning June 8, on Sportsnet and Sportsnet+.

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