Friday, 7 August 2009

Winning The Wales

Hockey Blog In Canada brings to you another of the major NHL trophies today. The Prince of Wales Trophy, like the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy, has been used for several different achievements throughout the years that it has been awarded in the NHL. It's history is long and well-documented, giving an accurate description of exactly what the award was used for over the course of its history. However, the Prince of Wales Trophy has always been held to a higher standard, it seems, than the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy due to its history. How did the Prince of Wales Trophy come to be? Who is this "Prince of Wales" it was named for? What makes this trophy so interesting?

Let's start with a little history on the man. Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, or Edward VIII, was British royalty. Born on June 23, 1894, Edward would become Prince Edward of York, Prince Edward of Cornwall and York, Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay, and Prince of Wales. He was the son of The Duke of York - who would eventually become King George V - and The Duchess of York, formerly known as Princess Victoria Mary of Teck.

Edward was officially made Prince of Wales on July 13, 1911 at age 17 in a ceremony at Caernarfon Castle in Gwynedd, Wales. The ceremony was without much fanfare, but Edward said a few words in Welsh much to the delight of all in attendance.

With the start of World War I in 1914, Edward was eager to do his part in the military. He served with the Grenadier Guards, and wanted to serve with his peers on the front line, but was forbidden to do so as Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, cited that there would be "immense damage" to the throne if he were to be captured or killed.

Edward was undeterred, however, and visited the front line whenever he could. He witnessed first-hand the battles from the trenches, and his visits made him extremely popular with the veterans serving in the conflicts. Because of his willingness to put himself in harm's way, he was awarded the Military Cross in 1916 for "an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land to all members, of any rank in Our Armed Forces".

Throughout the 1920s, Edward traveled abroad as a representative of his father. He was particularly interested in poverty-stricken areas of British rule. During one of his visits to Canada, Edward purchased the Bedingfield ranch near Peskiko, Ontario. In 1924, Edward donated the Prince of Wales Trophy to the NHL that featured the royal coat of arms and cost $2500.

The NHL began awarding the trophy to its champion with the first winners being the Montreal Canadiens after they defeated the New York Americans 3-1 at the first game played on Madison Square Garden ice on December 15, 1925. Starting in the 1925-26 season, it was awarded to the NHL Playoff Champion, replacing the O'Brien Cup. The winner of the Prince of Wales Trophy would face the winner of the Western Hockey League for the Stanley Cup.

In 1927, the Prince of Wales Trophy winner was the team that won the American Division. Their counterparts in the Canadian Division would win the O'Brien Cup, similar to how the Prince of Wales and Campbell Trophies are awarded today. When the league became one division of six teams in 1938, the Prince of Wales Trophy was awarded to the best team overall in the six-team league. Essentially, it was the equivalent of today's President's Trophy from 1938 until the league expanded in 1967.

With six new teams added to the NHL in 1967, the league split the twelves teams into the Eastern and Western Divisions. The team that finished atop the regular season standings in the Eastern Conference was awarded the Prince of Wales Trophy for their hard work.

This only lasted seven years as the NHL re-aligned its teams again into two conferences in 1974: the Campbell Conference and the Wales Conference. They were named as such because the two trophies - the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy and the Prince of Wales Trophy, respectively - were awarded to the team with the best regular season record from their respective conference.

In 1981, the Prince of Wales Trophy would be awarded to the winner of the playoffs from the Wales Conference. The Prince of Wales Trophy-winning team would then represent the Wales Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.

In 1994, the Prince of Wales Trophy would be awarded to the Eastern Conference Champions in the playoffs after the divisions and conferences were renamed with geographical names. The Prince of Wales Trophy-winning team would then represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.

And that's the history of the Prince of Wales Trophy. While the actual Prince, Edward VIII, didn't have much of an interest in the NHL, his trophy has meant a great deal to a number of NHL teams for what it represents. As stated above, the first team to win the Prince of Wales Trophy was 1925 Montreal Canadiens.

Here are some interesting facts about the Prince of Wales Trophy and its winners:

  • The Montreal Canadiens have the most Prince of Wales Trophy wins in the history of the NHL with 25. The Boston Bruins sit second with 15, and the Detroit Red Wings are third with 13 wins.
  • The Montreal Canadiens 25th Prince of Wales Trophy win came in 1993 - the last year that the conference was named as the Wales Conference.
  • From 1974-81 when the trophy was awarded to the Wales Conference regular season champion, only two teams won the award: the Montreal Canadiens and the Buffalo Sabres.
  • The Detroit Red Wings have won the most consecutive Prince of Wales Trophies with six straight wins from 1948-49 until 1954-55. This is when the trophy was awarded to the regular season champion.
  • For all their history, the Toronto Maple Leafs have only won the trophy twice, and both times were when the trophy was awarded to the top team after the regular season. The two occurrences were 1947-48 and 1962-63.
  • 45 times has the Prince of Wales Trophy winner gone on to win the Stanley Cup.
  • The original Ottawa Senators team has as many wins as the current version of the Ottawa Senators. Both teams won once.
  • Since 1993, the Southeast Division and the Atlantic Division have the best representation on the Prince of Wales Trophy. Four out of the five teams in each division have won the Prince of Wales Trophy. The only team that hasn't? The Atlanta Thrashers from the Southeast, and the New York Islanders from the Atlantic. The only teams from the Northeast to have won in that time have been the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators.
So there are some facts about the trophy, the man behind the trophy, and the winners of the trophy. The Prince of Wales Trophy has represented a number of things over the course of its time in the NHL, but there's one common theme - the best team in its respective criteria has always won the trophy.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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