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Pucks and PR

Because hockey is more than just a game

As a jaded office worker, I throw around the phrase ‘sense of entitlement’ a lot. It’s meant as my way of saying someone feels deserving of praise, recognition and reward for no reason other than simply showing up.

And guess what, my fellow Canadian hockey fans? We’ve crossed over into sense of entitlement territory. For much of my life, the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a time for people to sit back and wait for their moment to dust off the ol’ It’s been __ years since a Canadian team won the Cup!

With the Montreal Canadiens being eliminated this year, Rogers Sportsnet found a reason to fire up the graphic design department and created the Canada’s cup drought continues infographic.

It’s mildly interesting, with some shoulder-shrugging, meh, facts. Ultimately, it paints the same picture: Canadian teams deserve to win.

I love Canada. I love our passion for the game of hockey. And I love how a single sport seems to unite us as a nation.

However, there is a reason why every other country thinks we’re hockey snobs. Whether in international play where the maple leaf is prominent and national pride is at stake, or the NHL level where a team just happens to play in a Canadian city, we operate under this unfounded assumption that victory is deserved.

Since when does a team’s postal code relate to it ‘deserving’ a championship? Why are we shocked by Canadian NHL teams not winning the cup? The players on Canadian NHL teams’ rosters come from across the globe. They are managed, coached and bankrolled by people of various national backgrounds. In every meaningful way, Canadian NHL teams are exactly the same as American teams. The only difference is they are based in Canada.

There are seven Canadian teams in a 30 team league. They are the minority. And passion of a fan base, regardless of what some may say has little impact on whether players are hoisting the cup or booking a tee time in early June.

It isn’t just Canadian teams in a drought either. Below are seven of the 11 American teams that also haven’t won a cup the last 20 years.

Buffalo Sabres

  • Arena is minutes from Canadian border and their fan base is excellent.
  • Have never won the Stanley Cup.

New York Islanders

  • Former NHL dynasty, winning four Stanley Cups in a row.
  • Haven’t won the cup in over 30 years.

New York Rangers

  • Original Six franchise (somehow matters in this discussion).
  • Playing in the Finals this year after beating Montreal, but haven’t won it since 1994 and have only two championships over the past 74 years.

Philadelphia Flyers

  • Storied history with intensely loyal fans.
  • Haven’t won the cup in nearly 40 years.

St. Louis Blues

  • Once had a roster featuring Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger and Grant Fuhr.
  • Have never won the Stanley Cup.

Washington Capitals

  • For the past decade have had Alex Ovechkin, one of the most offensively gifted players in hockey.
  • Have never won the Stanley Cup.

San Jose Sharks

  • One of the most consistent, stable teams over the last decade.
  • Have never won the Stanley Cup.

Is this group somehow less worthy of the cup because they happen to be based south of the border? If so, I eagerly await the logical reason why (and “because hockey is Canada’s game” doesn’t count as logical).

Then take into account that since the last Canadian team won, several teams have multiple cups.

  • Detroit: Four cups
  • New Jersey: Three cups
  • Colorado: Two cups
  • Chicago: Two cups
  • And after this year, either New York or Los Angeles will have their second cup since 1993.

So, Canadian teams have faced competition from franchises that were clearly built to win. The multiple victories underscore that fact.

There is also the glass half full way of looking at this. Since 1993, four of seven Canadian franchises have been in the Stanley Cup Finals. And Vancouver has been runner-up twice.

That means 25% of Stanley Cup Finals played over the last 20 years have featured a Canadian team. And as of today, Canadian teams make up 23% of the NHL. If you want to get mad, get mad at your team – they’re the ones that don’t seem to be capitalizing on their chances.

Any team that has gone 20 years or more without a Stanley Cup has to ask tough questions. And the reasons for failure will always come back to a combination of these four groups: players, coaches, management and/or ownership.

Geography isn’t part of the equation.

If you want to find blame for the so-called Canadian Stanley Cup drought, don’t look to the NHL offices or teams south of the border. Take a look at the seven Canadian team logos. The people and players representing those logos are to blame. It’s that simple.

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