On May 26 2009, the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins picked up the Prince of Wales trophy. This is always the debate among the sport’s more superstitious participants and followers.
Is it bad luck to touch? Or not?
Sidney Crosby didn’t touch it the year before, when the Penguins were the Eastern Conference champions for the first time since 1992. But, they went on to lose the finals to the Detroit Redwings, so why not change precedent?
About two weeks after Crosby grabbed the trophy in 2009, he lifted a much bigger prize, the Stanley Cup.
So, seven years to the day after he grabbed the Prince of Wales trophy the last time, it was no surprise that he called over his alternate captains to pick it up once again, when the opportunity presented itself late Thursday night.
The captain picking up the trophy is not the only similarity between the ’09 Penguins team, and the current one.
There’s the obvious starting point for this: the midseason coaching change. Back then, it was moving on from Michel Therrien to Dan Bylsma.
This was followed in both cases with a incredible resurgence, and capped with a trip to the playoffs.
That team was the last one in Pittsburgh that was built anything like the one that is currently constructed.
The youthful legs and tenacity is there.
Just ask Connor Sheary and Bryan Rust, or their predecessors of seven years ago, in the likes of Tyler Kennedy or Jordon Staal.
The grit and grinding is there.
It has come in the form of Eric Fehr and Tom Kuhnackl, reincarnating names like Matt Cooke and Craig Adams.
What about wily veterans who have seen it all before?
Billy Guerin has now turned into the ageless Matt Cullen.
Not to mention, there’s still a couple guys on the roster named Malkin and Letang, who have only gained experience since.
And then there’s the man with the “C” on his sweater. Sure, Crosby was captain when the Penguins went to back-to-back finals in ‘08 and ‘09, but was only 21 for the latter. He was the best in the world, but still needed those veterans, like Bill Guerin or Sergei Gonchar, to lead him in the right direction.
But now, there is no mistake — this is his team. He is the leader. If it was questionable as to whether he should have been captain then, there should be no question now.
Since that last cup, there have been many jabs at Crosby’s leadership abilities, and even some knocks on his skills — some justifiable — but for the most part, not. NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick even questioned his work ethic in this past series.
But Crosby went about his business and kept leading. He quietly had three of the four game winning goals for the Penguins against Tampa Bay, with one coming in overtime. Before that very overtime, when the locker room was silent, he was the one to stand up and motivate the team to a win.
A lot can change in seven years; names, faces, and production, to name a few. They all changed in Pittsburgh in that time, but all the while, the men in charge were looking to copy the success, with all ending in failed attempts, again and again.
Now, though, it seems as if they’ve found that special recipe again. They’ve finally found the supporting cast for their perennial superstar core, something all too familiar from cup years past.
There’s still one more series to be played, and it’s the biggest yet.
At this point, if anything derails Pittsburgh’s hopes of raising the Stanley Cup again, it won’t be touching the Prince of Wales trophy, it will be losing their identity.
You know, the one they searched for years to regain.
Ernecoff is a Titusville High School graduate, currently enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also an avid Pittsburgh sports fan.