“We don’t distribute them,” NHL content director Steve Mayer told ESPN on Friday.
The Prince of Wales Trophy, created in 1925, is awarded to the winner of the NHL Eastern Conference. The Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, established in 1967, is presented to the champion of the Western Conference.
But the NHL played the 2021 season without a designated conference, realigning its teams into four new divisions. Travel restrictions at Canada’s border have required the league’s seven Canadian teams to be placed in their own divisions. The 24 US teams have been reorganized geographically to reduce travel, for financial and COVID security reasons.
Because the North Division stretched across all of Canada, having Eastern or Western conferences made no sense this season. Mayer said the league discussed what to do with Wales and Campbell’s trophies very early in the realignment process. Consideration has been given to presenting them as “division champion” trophies or to the Stanley Cup finalists. Instead, it was decided not to distribute them at all.
“There will be things we will always remember from this season, and one of them is that we never put off the [conference] trophies, ”Mayer said.
The conference championship trophies hold a special place in the Stanley Cup playoff tradition. There is a decades-long superstition that hitting the championship trophy gives a team bad luck trying to win the Stanley Cup in the next round.
In 2015, the Tampa Bay Lightning did not touch the Prince of Wales Trophy and then lost in the Stanley Cup final. In the last playoffs, defenseman Victor Hedman defied tradition and won the trophy after the Lightning defeated the New York Islanders in the conference final. Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup against Dallas.
“It didn’t work last time,” Hedman said after the conference final. “It was obvious to us. ”