Panthers touch Prince of Wales Trophy following Game 4 win

The Florida Panthers stuck with recent tradition and touched the Prince of Wales Trophy.

NHL senior executive vice president, marketing and chief branding officer Brian Jennings presented the trophy to Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov following a 4-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida, on Wednesday. Barkov and his teammates posed for photos with it before he carried it off the ice.

“The last thing that we’re going to do is be is superstitious about not touching it,” said forward 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, carry it around and take pictures with it. We earned that thing.”

The Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the Trophy each of the past three seasons, touched it all three, but were defeated in the Cup Final by the Colorado Avalanche in six games last season. Prior to that, they won the Cup in 2020 against the Dallas Stars and in 2021 against the Montreal Canadiens after touching 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 play the Vegas Golden Knights or Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Final. Vegas leads that series 3-0 and can advance to the Cup Final with a win in Game 4 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, CBC, TVAS, SN).

Five of the past seven teams to win the Cup have touched the Prince of Wales Trophy. Prior to 2020, Sidney Crosby touched it in 2016 and in 2017 before helping the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Cup each season, and Alex Ovechkin did the same in 2018 with the Washington Capitals, who won the Cup.

The tradition of not touching the Prince of Wales Trophy hasn’t worked out well for Eastern Conference champions in recent seasons. The Boston Bruins in 2011 are the most recent team to win the Cup after choosing not to touch it. The past five teams to not do so lost the Cup Final.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara did not 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.

Because of temporary divisional realignment due to COVID-19 in 2020-21, the third round of the playoffs was renamed the semifinals, instead of the conference finals. The Prince of Wales Trophy was awarded to the Lightning after they defeated the New York Islanders in the semifinals.

The Prince of Wales Trophy has been awarded to the Eastern Conference champion since the 1993-94 season.

“[We] definitely didn’t do it the easy way,” Tkachuk said. “We earned it. I feel like if you’re blocking shots, taking hits, doing whatever it takes to win a trophy like that, you might as well enjoy it.” staff writer Amalie Benjamin contributed to this report