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2023 Stanley Cup final Panthers vs Knights: champions traditions and superstitions

The oldest and most revered trophy in North American sports is surrounded by traditions and superstitions, lending an air of gravitas to the victor

The oldest and most revered trophy in North American sports is surrounded by traditions and superstitions, lending an air of gravitas to the victor
Michael MartinGetty

Tradition and superstition go hand-in-hand with sports, with athletes believing that anything they might wear, eat, or touch has the power to alter their ability to win. The older and more prestigious the trophy on offer, the more detailed and obscure become the superstitions. None are more prestigious than the Stanley Cup, the oldest and most revered of all North American trophies, and so it follows that no tradition is more strictly followed than those surrounding it.

Most notable traditions of the Stanley Cup

One of the most obvious and public is the fact that no NHL player will ever touch the Stanley Cup until they have won it. Public appearances with the cup are often one of the greatest moments in a fan’s life, with even the great and good unable to resist the opportunity to touch the fabled goblet. But touching it before you have legitimately won it is believed to be a bad omen, and will prevent you from ever winning the Cup legitimately.

Another tradition that is a bit more problematic is the one that states that players should not touch trophies won on the road to the Stanley Cup, particularly the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, the two trophies given to Eastern and Western Conference champions respectively. This one is a bit of a strange one, because there are enough exceptions to the rule to suggest that it is fading away. Commonly held to be the case, the reality is that many teams who lost the Stanley Cup switched over to touching the conference trophies in an attempt to forge a new tradition. For example, both Tampa Bay and Colorado have touched their respective awards since the last time that they did so, they actually won the Stanley Cup.

When the Stanley Cup is actually won, another tradition comes into force. This is the only major North American sport where the award is presented, not to the team’s owner, but to the captain of the team. It has become such a tradition as to be almost synonymous with the Stanley Cup. When you hear the words “Stanley Cup”, what do you see in your mind’s eye? A hockey player hoisting it in both hands above his head, right? Of course you did. You will never see that with the Lombardi Trophy or the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy or World Series Commissioner’s Trophy.

The first thing that any self-respecting hockey player would want to do when handed a giant silver goblet? Take a drink from it! While the Stanley Cup is technically a bowl, it can actually hold 14 cans of beer, and the winners do indeed partake of the fruit of their victory.

Another unique thing about the Stanley Cup is that it is a true team-oriented award. As such, each player on the winning team gets to spend a day with it. After all, their blood, sweat, and tears is what earned it. Most players want to spend their day with it in their home town, so the Stanley Cup has actually travelled hundreds of thousands of miles to go to the farthest reaches of the globe. It has even been used to baptize at least two babies.