I know, I know, at this point you’ve probably scoffed and switched to reading a different article, but hear me out.
When you think of Hockey, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? A toothless Hoser in a tattered Canadiens jersey just playing a little pond hockey with some Timmies and an ice cold Molson.
Personally, I can name 20 of my high school classmates that fit that bill.
Yes, there it is: I am Canadian. But I assure you that, just because our money looks like it came straight out of a game of Monopoly, doesn’t mean I can’t give my two cents (pay no attention to the fact that Canada also no longer has pennies…). All jokes aside, while Canada is often synonymous with Hockey, no Canadian team has won a Stanley Cup in 23 years.
In 2016, not a single Canadian team made the playoffs.
The Montreal Canadians have won the most Stanley Cups in history (24), but haven’t made it past the first round of playoffs in the last three years, and haven’t won a cup since 1993. It’s still too soon for me to talk about the Vancouver Canucks’ loss to the Bruins in 2011, or as my Grade Six teacher called it at the time, “The Choke of the Century.” The Flames have missed out on a playoff bid for two of the last three years, and up until 2014 hadn’t won a playoff game in ten years. Edmonton had high hopes when they acquired Connor McDavid, now the youngest captain in NHL history, but, last year, made the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons. Ottawa has had such a bad year that the owner threatened to move the team. The Jets haven’t been much different, only making two playoff appearances since relocating in 2011, with this year marking their first playoff series win in franchise history. And with the Leafs’ tough loss to the Bruins last Wednesday, the city of Toronto will mark its 50th year without winning a Stanley Cup.
So why does Canada — the country which is credited with inventing the sport — consistently have such a hard time reaching a post-season series? I could go on about that for pages and pages. But as nice as it would be to finally get a win in what essentially is Canada’s national sport, there is another reason why this is Canada’s year.
I was sitting in the Den watching the pre-game report on last Wednesday’s Bruins – Maple Leafs game seven, and I saw on the b-roll a sign that said, “Toronto Strong.” In the wake of the attack by a man who plowed into a crowd killing 10 and injuring 14 two days before, Toronto really needed a win. They fought hard, and it was a fair game, the Leafs were simply outplayed. But after what feels like a never ending series of mass deaths in Canada in the last few weeks, Canadians need something to place their faith in again. The entire National Hockey League, and the entire country, has united in their support for the Humboldt Broncos, the SJHL team that was involved in a 16 fatality crash earlier this month. But it is the neighboring province’s Winnipeg Jets that have become a symbol of the strength and resilience for which hockey players are known. The same could be said for plenty of other teams; e.g. the Tampa Bay Lightning in the wake of the Parkland Shooting. But in a league that has come to rely so much on young prospects, overshadowed by the fact that 10 young players with dreams of winning a Cup will never get there, maybe the Winnipeg Jets can restore the Canadian faith and win it for the Humboldt Broncos.