Panthers change NHL playoff strategy, refuse to touch Prince of Wales Trophy

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers are hoping that change in a specific strategy will help them win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history this season.

The Panthers secured their second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final by eliminating the New York Rangers with a 2-1 win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at home on Saturday. Part of the on-ice celebration included the presentation of the Prince of Wales Trophy as Eastern Conference champion by NHL deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.

Unlike last season, when they swept the Carolina Hurricanes, in the conference final, no one from the Panthers touched the trophy Saturday. It sat on a table where a team photo was taken. But it remained untouched. Unloved.

Last season, Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov picked up the trophy and brought it into the locker room. They balked at the so-called “curse” of celebratory teams losing in the Stanley Cup Final by touching and celebrating with the Prince of Wales Trophy.

However, the Panthers lost the Cup Final in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights. So, that called for a switch in strategy this season.

Cameras caught Panthers coach Paul Maurice tugging at Barkov’s jersey at the buzzer to get his attention and remind him no one touches the trophy.

“It has nothing to do with anything, but we do play our silly games,” Maurice explained afterward.

Related: 2024 NHL Playoffs: Winners and losers from Game 6 of Eastern Conference Final

Panthers change plans dealing with NHL superstition

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

There is much debate regarding whether or not the Prince of Wales Trophy is cursed. In 2023, the Panthers celebrated with the trophy. They lost in the Final, and the same applies to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2022, who saw their run of consecutive championships end at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.

However, the Lightning had a 2-1 record from 2020 to 2022, winning the Stanley Cup twice after skating off with the Prince of Wales Trophy earlier, which is something the Boston Bruins would probably go back in time to change. As of 2024, they are the last franchise to win the Eastern Conference title, not touch the Prince of Wales Trophy, and win the Stanley Cup in 2011.

During their trips to the 2013 and 2019 Cup Finals, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara refused to touch the trophy, and the Bruins lost both times. Yet, when the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrated back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and 2017, captain Sidney Crosby was more than happy to touch it each time.

Crosby was following a tradition he started in 2009, when the Penguins returned to their second consecutive Final, winning a year after not touching the Prince of Wales Trophy and losing to the Detroit Red Wings the previous season. The Penguins are 3-1 during Crosby’s career when touching it. In the past decade, the Washington Capitals have been the only other Eastern Conference team to touch the Prince of Wales Trophy and win the Stanley Cup in 2018.

Since the start of the salary cap era in 2005, here’s a breakdown of the successes related to touching or not touching the Prince of Wales Trophy.

YearTeamTouch / No TouchFinal Result
2024Florida PanthersNo TouchTBD
2023Florida PanthersTouchLoss
2022Tampa Bay LightningTouchLoss
2021Tampa Bay LightningTouchWon
2020Tampa Bay LightningTouchWon
2019Boston BruinsNo TouchLoss
2018Washington CapitalsTouchWon
2017Pittsburgh PenguinsTouchWon
2016Pittsburgh PenguinsTouchWon
2015Tampa Bay LightningNo TouchLoss
2014New York RangersNo TouchLoss
2013Boston BruinsNo TouchLoss
2012New Jersey DevilsNo TouchLoss
2011Boston BruinsNo TouchWon
2010Philadelphia FlyersTouchLoss
2009Pittsburgh PenguinsTouchWon
2008Pittsburgh PenguinsNo TouchLoss
2007Ottawa SenatorsTouchLoss
2006Carolina HurricanesNo TouchWon

The Panthers are advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in franchise history. During their previous two Prince of Wales championships, in 1996 and 2023, captains Brian Skrudland and Barkov each touched the trophy.

So, that called for a different strategy this time around.

Stay tuned.

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