Stanley Cup could be coming to CanadaBy Matt Verderame
The last time a Stanley Cup has been awarded to a Canadian franchise, it was 1993. Bill Clinton was just starting his terms in office, Friends was still a year from going on air and very little people knew about the internet.
To say it was a different time is a massive understatement, and showcases just how long the drought has been for a country that lives, eats and breathes hockey. Yes, the last time a team north of the border won the Stanley Cup, it was the Montreal Canadiens beating the Los Angeles Kings in five games. On Los Angeles was one Wayne Gretzky.
In most years, the Canadian teams have not come close to the sport’s ultimate prize. It has been the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks and Kings which have owned the sport over the last 22 years, accounting for 16 championships since 1995.
Of the seven Canadian teams, the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators have all gotten to the Stanley Cup Final at least once in that time, with Vancouver doing it twice. Save for Ottawa, who lost in five games to the Anaheim Ducks, all the others series went the full seven games. In each case, the America team walked away with the win, leaving Canada to wonder what could have been.
This season, Canada should be well-represented in the playoffs. Montreal is leading its division despite a recent coaching change that netted Claude Julien, while Ottawa and Edmonton are firmly entrenched in the playoff picture. Calgary and Toronto are both in the postseason if the regular season ended today, while the Winnipeg Jets are on the doorstep.
The only team that has no chance of reaching the playoffs is the Canucks, who are in a rebuilding phase after competing for more than a decade.
If it means more to any of these teams, it would have to be the Maple Leafs. Toronto has been abysmal for most of the new century and has not won a Stanley Cup since 1967. The franchise is akin to the New York Knicks in the NBA, playing in the mecca of the league’s sport. Unfortunately, also like New York, there has not been much to brag about in recent years.
Playing behind a fresh wave of young kids, the Maple Leafs are now fun and exciting, making the Air Canada Centre the place to be on 41 occasions this season. If Toronto makes a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs, an entire country will come alive with buzz, with only the rival Montreal rooting against it.
Canada is hoping this year is finally the year for one of its seven clubs. For once, it feels like it could actually happen.