It’s been almost 30 years since a Canadian NHL team has quenched a country’s collective thirst with a sip from Lord Stanley’s Holy Grail, and the drought has left many Canadian hockey fans disillusioned.
What was once a rite of passage in Canada to watch a team from your homeland hoist the Stanley Cup in late spring has turned into a distant memory.
The only evidence is relics of blurry pre-HDTV clips that get unearthed from time to time to remind us that back in 1993, the Montreal Canadiens were Stanley Cup champions.
While Canadian teams only make up 22% of the league, it’s almost statistically impossible that the Cup has not been home to Canada in nearly three decades.
Is Canada cursed when it comes to the Stanley Cup?
Is it time to start throwing the word ‘curse’ around? Or will a Canuck team finally bring home the hardware to a nation that hasn’t had it on its soil since Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister?
|Toronto Maple Leafs
There Have Been Some Close Calls
It’s not that homegrown teams haven’t had their chances. But, there have been some dark days, highlighted in 2016, when not even one home team made the NHL playoffs.
2016 was the first time such a travesty occurred, and hopefully the last. But there have also been six Stanley Cup Finals appearances including a stretch of three straight years between 2004 and 2007 when the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Ottawa Senators all made it to the big game.
Flames fans will be quick to tell you they won the 2004 Stanley Cup with a third-period goal by Martin Gelinas in game six against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They’ll say that officials robbed the team of their title due to an egregious non-call that snatched the Stanley Cup right from their fingertips.
The flames would end up losing in overtime, and a couple of days later, the cup would belong to the Tampa Bay Lightning when they were victorious in game seven.
2021 saw the Montreal Canadiens finally get back to the finals, giving hope to a nation that thought maybe their Stanley Cup fortunes had finally come full circle since ’93.
Still, the loveable underdogs were no match for a juggernaut Tampa Bay team that was en route to back-to-back championships.
Why Have There Been No Stanley Cup Champions?
A drought this long is a hard pill to swallow for Canadian fans when considering history. Between 1927 and 1995, the longest stretch of a Canadian team missing the finals was just two years, when the Pittsburgh Penguins won back-to-back cups, beating Minnesota and Chicago.
Since 1993, Canada has only made it to the finals six times in 29 years.
One of the main theories surrounding this question is that Canada’s teams can’t attract the talent the American market can.
A salary cap enacted in 2005 has undoubtedly created more parity in the league, meaning teams can no longer just buy a winning team. It hasn’t changed the fact that many players end up moving to American squads.
There are many reasons some players would rather play in the United States than Canada, and the Great White North’s harsh winters certainly play a factor.
But aside from the inclement weather and constant border crossing, the main reason most players would rather play in the U.S. comes down to dollars, particularly tax dollars.
Take-home pay can be significantly less in Canada due to higher local tax rates, making it hard to attract talent who could choose to play somewhere with no state income tax.
More of a Team Game?
Another theory points to the notion that hockey is more of a complete team game than many sports, and it’s hard to win with just a couple of superstars.
In sports like basketball or soccer, players can stay on the field for the entire game and sometimes win a game single-handedly. But in hockey, you can have the league’s MVP, but he still will only play roughly one-third of the contest.
Although Canadian teams can sometimes attract a superstar talent like Connor McDavid, it doesn’t necessarily translate to a championship unless you have other ingredients.
Should We Cheer for Canadian Rivals?
Back in the day, it would be sacrilege for a fan to cheer for their Canadian rival just because they share a homeland. This betrayal would be unheard of in rivalries like Calgary and Edmonton or Toronto and Montreal.
But with a drought this long, some fans might be softening their stance. Rivalries lose a little bit of their lustre when neither team is winning trophies, and the nation as a whole begins to feel like an underdog.
There’s no better person to illustrate this than Eric Desjardins, who played on the last cup-winning Canadian team in ’93. Desjardins agrees the drought has gone on way too long and would root for a Canadian team in the finals, no matter what team they were facing.
“If the Final’s between Pittsburgh and Winnipeg, yeah, I would root, even though I like Pittsburgh,” he said. “But yeah, against Calgary, Winnipeg, I would cheer for the Canadian team.”