"We didn't touch the trophy last year (2008), and obviously we didn't have the result we wanted. We figured we'd touch it this year (2009). Although we haven't accomplished exactly what we want, we still accomplished something here. You know, we can still enjoy it." - Sidney Crosby
On May 27, 2009, moments after the Penguins swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, captain Sidney Crosby
glided to center ice at the RBC Center to accept the Prince of Wales Trophy from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, signifying Pittsburgh as Eastern Conference champions for the second consecutive season.
Crosby didn't just accept the trophy, he -- gasp! -- touched it. He even called over alternate captains Evgeni Malkin
and Sergei Gonchar to get the party started.
He did what?
It might as well have been the equivalent of repeatedly walking under a ladder with a black cat in your arms while stepping on all the cracks in the sidewalk. Crosby ignored decades of hockey superstition by touching the Prince of Wales Trophy while his Penguins still were in the hunt for the biggest trophy of all, the Stanley Cup.
Legend has it if you touch the Prince of Wales Trophy -- if you have the gall to celebrate the Eastern Conference title -- then you won't win the Stanley Cup.
It's a superstition Crosby followed in the spring of 2008 when he won his first conference title -- he didn't touch the trophy, only standing next to it for the obligatory post-game photo. A few weeks later, the Penguins were defeated by the Detroit Red Wings in six games in the Stanley Cup Final. Recalling that disappointment, Crosby had this wild idea ...
"We didn't touch the trophy last year, and obviously we didn't have the result we wanted," Crosby said. "We figured we'd touch it this year. Although we haven't accomplished exactly what we want, we still accomplished something here. You know, we can still enjoy it."
It was fitting that it would be Crosby, the shining star of the NHL, to be the one to break superstition and lift the trophy. But truth be told, it wasn't the sole decision of Crosby to take his destiny in his own hands, to go a different route.
Up three games to none in the series, Crosby began to think of the foregone conclusion that Pittsburgh would win one of the next four games and advance to the Cup Final. So before nailing that final victory, he asked veteran Bill Guerin what his thoughts were on touching the Prince of Wales this time around. Mind you, Guerin wears the very superstitious and unlucky No. 13 for the Penguins.
"It has nothing to do with hockey," Guerin said of touching or not touching the Prince of Wales Trophy. And it was a gutsy call on his part. Guerin won the Cup with New Jersey in his third full season in the League, in 1994-95, but hadn't gotten close since. Here he was, 14 years later, about to play for the Cup again, and knowing that his best chance of repeating was to let the star-crossed Crosby take the team in his own direction.
Not long after Crosby's slap to the face of superstition, reports surfaced that touching the conference championship trophy had been done in recent years. Mario Lemieux of Pittsburgh in 1991, Steve Yzerman of Detroit in 1997, and Scott Stevens of New Jersey in 2000 and 2003 all accepted the hardware (in the case of Yzerman, the Clarence Campbell Bowl for the West) and went on to win the Cup.
"I think we over-think everything," said Penguins center Jordan Staal
said. "It's a great thing to win this trophy, you know?"
Now Staal and the rest of the Penguins do know, even more so after beating the Red Wings in seven games to win that other trophy.
"Might as well grab it and get a picture with it and move on," Crosby said of the Prince of Wales Trophy, "and go after the one we really want."
One other aspect of Pittsburgh's Stanley Cup drive that Crosby did get superstitious about was his team's choice of hotel while in Detroit. In 2008, the Penguins stayed in the Westin Downtown. For their return engagement in 2009, the squad bunked in the Ritz-Carlton in Dearborn. Score one for superstition after all.
"I think a lot of hockey players are guilty of that," Crosby said. "Why not? It's a good change."
In fact, it all worked out just fine.Contact Rocky Bonanno at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Rocky Bonanno | NHL.com Staff Writer