Friday, April 27, 2012
The Great Canadian Hockey Crisis
As of last night, there are no Canadian teams in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs. After the Vancouver Canucks lost a shocking 5 game series to the Los Angeles Kings, and the New York Rangers dispatched the Ottawa Senators in a seven game nail-biter, there is no hope for a Canadian team hoisting the Cup for yet one more year. In fact, no Canadian team has lifted Lord Stanley's hardware for 19 years. The Montreal Canadiens were the last to do it on June 9, 1993 when they beat Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings.
There are many theories as to why there has been such a long drought of Cup victories north of the 49th parallel. Logic dictates that the likelihood of a Canadian team winning is less because there are many more American teams. Emotion dictates that hockey is Canada's game and a 19-year drought is inexcusable. I'd rather swallow a hockey puck whole than debate either scenario with anyone, particularly a Canadian hockey fan. When it comes to sports, there is no logic or reason; nobody, I don't care how talented a prognosticator, is capable of coming up with a cogent explanation why 19 years have passed without a Canadian team achieving glory.
The longer I live in Canada, the more I come to realize how different this country is from the United States. On the surface, Canadian life looks almost identical to American life, but when you start digging, you uncover many differences - some subtle, some not so subtle - about what makes Canadians Canadian, and Americans American.
One of those not-so-subtle differences is the Canadian attitude toward professional sports. Sure, Canadians love their football, basketball and baseball. They even follow the European soccer leagues more closely than your average American. But, those all fall by the wayside when it comes to hockey. Canadians are obsessed with it; not just the NHL, but hockey at every level. They live it, breathe it, wear it, celebrate it in every way possible; the only American pastime that comes close to the way Canadians feel about hockey is how a large segment of the American population feels about football. Even with that comparison, there is something even more profound about the Canadian love of hockey. People aren't generally born sports fans; Canadians, however, seem to have hockey woven into their DNA at the moment of conception. That's an extreme take on it, I admit, but the more I think about it, the more I believe it's true.
With Canada now bereft of a rooting interest for the remainder of this year's playoffs, there's a strange stillness in the air and a sense of loss permeating the collective psyche of the population. People seem a tad snappier today than they normally would be on your average Friday, and the only reason I can think of is that, as winter turns to spring, visions of hoisting the Cup on Canadian soil have once more been dashed. As the saying goes, there's always next year.
For those Canadians still intent on watching playoff hockey, you can consult this handy guide to see if you can stomach choosing (gasp!) an American team to cheer for.
Have a great weekend.