NHL Conference Finals
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NHL Conference Finals

The National Hockey League (NHL) Conference Finals are the Eastern Conference and Western Conference championship series of the NHL. The Conference Finals are best-of-seven series, and comprise the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The two series are played in mid-to-late May (early June in 1995 and 2013, due to labour disputes that delayed the start of the season and September in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). The winners of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals receive the Prince of Wales Trophy and Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, respectively, and advance to face each other in the final round.


Before the 1967-68 season, the NHL was made up only of a single division. From the 1967-68 season through the 1973-74 season, the NHL was made up of two divisions (as opposed to conferences), the East Division and the West Division.

Following the 1973-74 season, the NHL again realigned. The East and West Divisions were renamed the Prince of Wales and Clarence Campbell Conferences, respectively. At the time, the new conferences and divisions had little to do with North American geography and geographical references were removed. Furthermore, all playoff teams were seeded regardless of conference.

Beginning in the 1981-82 season, the conferences and the playoffs were realigned. The NHL was hoping to reduce travel costs in the face of a struggling economy and high energy prices. The regular season and playoffs were also altered to emphasize divisional match-ups. Thus, the first official Conference Finals were held in 1982.

Beginning in the 1993-94 season, the names of conferences and divisions were changed to reflect their geographic locations. At the instigation of then-new NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, the NHL made the change to help non-hockey fans better understand the game, as the National Basketball Association uses geographic-based names for their conferences and divisions, and the National Football League, and Major League Baseball use geographic-based names for their divisions. Therefore, the Campbell Conference became the Western Conference and the Wales Conference became the Eastern Conference. The winner of the Eastern Conference Finals receives the Prince of Wales Trophy, while the winner of the Western Conference Finals receives the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl. This practice remained until the pandemic-affected 2020-21 season that was played without conferences.[1] The league decided in June 2021 to award the trophies (one per team) to the two victors of the Stanley Cup Semifinals.[2] After this season the league plans to revive the conferences for the 2021-22 season.

The Hartford Whalers never advanced to a Conference Finals, however after they relocated to become the Carolina Hurricanes, they did so four times (2002 as the eventual Cup finalists, 2006 as the eventual Cup champions, 2009, and 2019). The original Winnipeg Jets never appeared in a Conference Finals, and after moving to become the Phoenix Coyotes the franchise did not even win a playoff series until the 2012 NHL playoffs when they advanced to the Conference Finals. Of the 31 teams in the NHL, only one has never appeared in a Conference Finals, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Conference trophy traditions

The 2013 Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins pose with the Prince of Wales Trophy
Henrik Sedin of the 2011 Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks accepts the Campbell Bowl

Another tradition (or rather superstition) that is prevalent among today's NHL players is that no player should touch the Cup itself until his team has rightfully won the Cup.[3] Adding to this superstition is some players' choice to neither touch nor hoist the conference trophies (Clarence S. Campbell Bowl and Prince of Wales Trophy) when these series have been won; the players feel that the Stanley Cup is the true championship trophy, and only it should be hoisted.[4]

However, in 1994, Stephane Matteau, then of the New York Rangers, admitted that he tapped the Wales Trophy with his stick's blade before the overtime period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.[5] Matteau subsequently scored the game-winning goal in double overtime against the New Jersey Devils. Following the game, Mark Messier, the captain of the Rangers, picked up and raised the Wales Trophy after it was awarded to the team.[6] After winning the Western Conference, Vancouver Canucks captain Trevor Linden lifted the Campbell trophy.[7] The Rangers prevailed over the Canucks in a seven-game series to win the Cup.

Scott Stevens and Martin Brodeur hoisted the conference trophy as well in 2000, after the New Jersey Devils came back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games; the Devils would go on to defeat the Dallas Stars (who touched but did not lift their conference trophy)[8] in the Stanley Cup Finals. Stevens then also touched the trophy in 2003, after defeating the Ottawa Senators in seven games. Not only touching, Stevens picked up the trophy and made his team take a photo with it. The Devils went on to defeat the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim four games to three in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals.

In 2002, the Carolina Hurricanes hoisted the Prince of Wales Trophy after they won their conference title;[9] the Hurricanes lost their Finals series with the Detroit Red Wings four games to one. Steve Yzerman, captain of the Red Wings during their 1997, 1998 and 2002 Stanley Cup victories, picked up the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl each time, to the delight of the home fans in Joe Louis Arena.[10]

The superstition held true in 2004, as Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames grabbed the Campbell Bowl, but Dave Andreychuk of the Tampa Bay Lightning refused to touch the Prince of Wales Trophy; the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in seven games. In 2007, Daniel Alfredsson and Wade Redden of the Ottawa Senators touched and picked up the Prince of Wales Trophy, respectively, but Anaheim Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer never came close to the Campbell Bowl; the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in five games. Steve Yzerman, captain of the Detroit Red Wings during their 1997, 1998, and 2002 Stanley Cup victories, picked up the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl each time, though his successor Nicklas Lidstrom did not touch it en route to a 2008 Stanley Cup victory. Scott Stevens hoisted the Prince of Wales Trophy during the Devils' other two Stanley Cup-winning seasons in 1995 and 2003. In 2009, 2016, and 2017, Sidney Crosby and other members of the Pittsburgh Penguins carried and posed with the Prince of Wales Trophy before going on to win the Stanley Cup. At the close of the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals, Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards picked up the Wales Trophy. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks captain, did not touch the Campbell Bowl, and the Blackhawks went on to defeat the Flyers in six games for the 2010 Stanley Cup.

In 2012, Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown and the rest of the team refused to touch the Campbell Bowl after winning the conference finals against the Phoenix Coyotes. The team did not take the Campbell Bowl trophy on the plane back to Los Angeles. Instead, Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group (the parent of the LA Kings), drove the trophy in his car trunk from Phoenix to Los Angeles and showed it to the more-than 10,000 fans that waited at LAX Airport to show their support to their Stanley Cup finalists, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. This was in marked contrast to 1993, when the Kings had defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games to reach their first Finals, where Wayne Gretzky and the team celebrated with the Campbell Bowl.[]

In 2015, the Chicago Blackhawks took a team photo with the Campbell Bowl after winning Game 7 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals against the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The Blackhawks would end up defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals.[] In 2018, Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin hoisted the Wales trophy after winning the Eastern Conference Finals, before ultimately defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in five games to win the Stanley Cup.[] In 2020, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and his teammates lifted the Prince of Wales Trophy after winning the Eastern Conference Finals. Head coach Jon Cooper stated "we win a trophy, we pick it up",[11] while Victor Hedman acknowledged that not touching the trophy in 2015 "didn't work".[12] The Lightning went on to defeat the Dallas Stars in six games in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Prince of Wales Conference/Eastern Conference

Prince of Wales Conference (1982-1993)

Eastern Conference (1994-2020)

Clarence Campbell Conference/Western Conference

Clarence Campbell Conference (1982-1993)

Western Conference (1994-2020)

Team totals

Legend: CF = Conference Finals; SCF = Stanley Cup Finals; Bolded year denotes win; Italicized denotes active series

Team CF appearances CF wins CF % SCF wins SCF % Last CF Consecutive CF Consecutive SCF
Chicago Blackhawks 12 4 .333 3 .750 2015 3 --
Detroit Red Wings 10 6 .600 4 .667 2009 4 2
Edmonton Oilers 9 7 .778 5 .714 2006 3 3
Pittsburgh Penguins 9 6 .667 5 .833 2017 2 2
Philadelphia Flyers 9 4 .444 0 .000 2010 -- --
Boston Bruins 8 5 .625 1 .200 2019 3 --
Colorado Avalanche 8 2 .250 2 1.000 2002 4 --
New Jersey Devils 7 5 .714 3 .600 2012 2 2
Dallas Stars 7 4 .571 1 .250 2020 3 2
Montreal Canadiens 7 3 .429 2 .667 2014 2 --
Tampa Bay Lightning 6 3 .500 2 .667 2020 2 --
New York Rangers 6 2 .333 1 .500 2015 2 --
New York Islanders 5 3 .600 2 .667 2020 3 3
Anaheim Ducks 5 2 .400 1 .500 2017 2 --
San Jose Sharks 5 1 .200 0 .000 2019 2 --
Los Angeles Kings 4 3 .750 2 .667 2014 3 --
Carolina Hurricanes 4 2 .500 1 .500 2019 -- --
Buffalo Sabres 4 1 .250 0 .000 2007 2 --
St. Louis Blues 4 1 .250 1 1.000 2019 -- --
Toronto Maple Leafs 4 0 .000 0 - 2002 2 --
Calgary Flames 3 3 1.000 1 .333 2004 -- --
Vancouver Canucks 3 3 1.000 0 .000 2011 -- --
Washington Capitals 3 2 .667 1 .500 2018 -- --
Ottawa Senators 3 1 .333 0 .000 2017 -- --
Vegas Golden Knights 2 1 .500 0 .000 2020 -- --
Florida Panthers 1 1 1.000 0 .000 1996 -- --
Nashville Predators 1 1 1.000 0 .000 2017 -- --
Minnesota Wild 1 0 .000 0 - 2003 -- --
Arizona Coyotes 1 0 .000 0 - 2012 -- --
Winnipeg Jets 1 0 .000 0 - 2018 -- --
Columbus Blue Jackets 0 0 - 0 - N/A -- --

Note: The Colorado Avalanche's totals include two Conference Finals appearances as the Quebec Nordiques (both losses), and the Dallas Stars' totals include two Conference Finals appearances as the Minnesota North Stars (one win; subsequent Stanley Cup Finals loss). The Arizona Coyotes' only Conference Finals appearance was in 2012 as the Phoenix Coyotes. The Columbus Blue Jackets remain the only active NHL team to have never advanced to the Conference Finals.


  1. ^ Cotsoniks, Nicholas J. (May 14, 2021). "Stanley Cup Playoffs: Key questions, answers". NHL.com. Retrieved 2021.
  2. ^ "#NHLStats: Live Updates - June 10, 2021". media.nhl.com. June 10, 2021. Retrieved 2021. In addition to a spot in the Stanley Cup Final, the winner of the Golden Knights-Canadiens series will claim the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, while the Islanders-Lightning will battle for the Prince of Wales Trophy.
  3. ^ "Stanley Cup Journals:13". Hockey Hall of Fame. July 7, 2003. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2006.
  4. ^ Coffey, Phil (June 2, 2006). "Ice Age: Having another trophy in mind". Retrieved 2006.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Stephane Matteau". Retrieved 2007.
  6. ^ Cerny, Jim (May 27, 2009). "Stanley Cup Playoffs Flashback: May 27, 1994". New York Rangers. Retrieved 2010.
  7. ^ "The Canucks Are Going To the Finals - History Will Be MADE". Head To The Net. Archived from the original on August 17, 2011. Retrieved 2011.
  8. ^ Kevin Goff. "2011 NHL Playoffs: The Myth of the Cursed Stanley Cup Conference Final Trophies". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2014.
  9. ^ "Blog with picture of Hurricanes lifting the Prince of Wales Cup". Archived from the original on August 13, 2011. Retrieved 2013.
  10. ^ Goff, Kevin (May 18, 2011). "Debunking the Conference Final Trophy Curse". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2014.
  11. ^ Wyshynski, Greg (September 24, 2020). "'Quest for the Stanley Cup' Episode 4 recap: 'We're not going home!'". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ Faiello, Mari (September 18, 2020). "Lightning win conference final and touch the trophy. No superstition here". tampabay.com. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2020.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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