The Florida Panthers stayed true to recent tradition and touched the Prince of Wales Trophy.
NHL Senior Executive Vice President, Marketing and Chief Brand Officer Brian Jennings presented the Panthers captain with the trophy Alexander Barkov following a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Fla. on Wednesday. Barkov and his teammates posed for photos with him before pulling him off the ice.
“The last thing we’re going to do is be superstitious not to touch it,” the striker said Matthew Tkachuk, who scored the game-winning goal with 4.9 seconds left in the third period. “Like, nobody said we were even going to make the playoffs. I think it’s pretty cool to touch it and carry it around and take pictures with it. We deserved this thing.”
The Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won the trophy each of the past three seasons, have touched it all three, but were beaten in the Cup Final by the Colorado Avalanche in six games last season. Before that, they won the Cup in 2020 against the Dallas Stars and in 2021 against the Montreal Canadiens after hitting it each time.
In 1996, the only other time Florida won the Prince of Wales Trophy, captain Brian Skrudland lifted the trophy; the Panthers were then swept by the Avalanche in the Cup Final.
Florida will face either the Vegas Golden Knights or the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals. Vegas leads this series 3-1 and can advance to the Cup Final with a victory in Game 5 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Five of the last seven teams to win the Cup have touched the Prince of Wales Trophy. Before 2020, Sidney Crosby touched him in 2016 and 2017 before helping the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Cup each season, and Alex Ovechkin did the same in 2018 with the Cup-winning Washington Capitals.
The tradition of not touching the Prince of Wales Trophy has not worked well for the Eastern Conference champions in recent seasons. The Boston Bruins in 2011 were the last team to win the Cup after choosing not to touch it. The last five teams not to do so have lost the Cup final.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara didn’t touch the trophy in 2019 and Boston lost to the St. Louis Blues in seven games in the Cup Final. The New Jersey Devils (2012), Bruins (2013), New York Rangers (2014) and Lightning (2015) all lost in the Cup final after refusing to touch the trophy.
Due to temporary divisional realignment due to COVID-19 in 2020-21, the third round of the playoffs was renamed semifinals, instead of conference finals. The Prince of Wales Trophy was awarded to the Lightning after defeating the New York Islanders in the semi-finals.
THE Prince of Wales Trophy has been awarded to the Eastern Conference champion since the 1993-94 season.
“[We] I definitely didn’t do it the easiest way,” Tkachuk said. “We deserved it. I feel like if you block shots, take shots, do whatever it takes to win a trophy like that, you might as well enjoy it.”
NHL.com editor Amalie Benjamin contributed to this report