The playoffs have been tough for Canadian hockey fans this year. I’ve still been watching, despite the fact that no Canadian teams made the cut this year, but I’ve also probably been watching more Jays baseball than hockey. But now that we’re down to the final four, things are really heating up. Who should you cheer for? That’s entirely up to you, but it might be worth looking at what the options are.
In the Eastern Conference, we’ve got Sid and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who last took home the cup in 2009, and the Stamkos-less Tampa Bay Lightning, who won their first (and only) Stanley Cup back in 2004. That’s sure to be a heated battle (if Game 1 is any indication, it’ll be a pretty rough one too), but probably not as interesting as the one in the Western Conference. There, we have the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks, who both have never won a cup – or even made it into the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Blues have now reached out to Canadians, looking to get fans of the sport in the Great White North to cheer for their team.
— MyToba.ca (@mytobanews) May 15, 2016
What a good-lookin’ bunch of Canadian boys there. Well, there is one Swede, kind of… Alexander Steen (bottom right) has dual Canadian and Swedish citizenship, being born here, the son of the great Thomas Steen, but representing Sweden internationally. It’s not just because the Blues have the most Canadians of any team left that they think you should cheer for them. In fact, they’ve made a video laying out the points. Let’s have a look.
So lets round up the points made in the video:
- The Blues GM, Doug Armstrong, is also the GM of Team Canada.
- Their coach, Ken Hitchcock, has also worked with Team Canada, helping coach them to GOLD!
- A couple of Canadian greats in Al MacInnis and Bernie Federko both spent quite a bit of time in the Blues uniform.
- They’ve “adopted” Porcupine Plain, Saskatchewan, the home of former Blues player and current radio sportscaster Kelly Chase.
- Their TV broadcast team consists of “2 Good Ottawa Boys” in John Kelly and Darren Pang.
- They’ve got the most Canadian players of any team left, with 18.
- St. Louis and Canada both think highly of beer! St. Louis, by the way, is the home of Budweiser.
- The people of St. Louis are just all-around nice people. Perhaps not as nice as Canadians, but then again, who is?
There’s another reason to cheer, especially if you’re a fan of underdogs. The Blues made the playoffs every year between 1979 and 2004, and still somehow managed to never make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. That’s 25 consecutive years with no appearance in the Cup Final! They HAD appeared in the Cup Finals three times before that run, 1968-1970. They lost to the Canadians in ’68 and ’69, and to the Bruins in ’70, being swept each time. So they’ve never won a Stanley Cup Final game. Ever.
Then again, the Sharks are in a similar position, having never made it to the Cup Finals. However, of the six active teams to never make it to the Finals, they’ve got by far the best record: Six division championships and 17 playoff appearances… But only three trips to the Conference Finals, and dismal performances each time.
While the Sharks haven’t reached out to Canadians really at all, I am just a little bit torn about this one. Going into the playoffs, the Blues and Sharks are both teams I’d hoped would win. I’ll honestly say I didn’t expect either to make it past the first round, but now that they’re battling each other, I don’t know who to support. It’ll probably end up being one of those “I’m happy with whoever wins” scenarios. But I’ve had a soft spot for the Sharks since I was a kid and had an early Sharks jacket, not unlike this one:
As kids do, I liked the team mostly for their logo. However, they’ve been a lot of fun to watch over the last couple years, with players like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, etc. etc.
Mind you, the Blues can counter with players like Vladimir Tarasenko, David Backes, Alex Steen, Alex Pietrangelo, and Robby Fabbri.
However, despite their efforts to attract Canadians, they’ve apparently already alienated a few. After they announced on Twitter they would be playing O Canada before the start of Game 1 (for some reason, who knows why?), they then sent out this tweet:
Due to a pregame conflict, we’re unable to perform O Canada tomorrow. But we do have a special in-game honour for our Canadian friends.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) May 15, 2016
This seems a little weird, when you consider that generally O Canada only gets played when one of the teams participating is Canadian… But even still, it’s got people jumping ship already.
— tom howden (@Thomas_Howden) May 15, 2016
The logic? “You beg for Canada’s support, then refuse to play the one-minute national anthem.” I just don’t understand why they said they’d do it in the first place, or why one extra minute of music is such a problem… But it is what it is.
I guess at this point, I’ll just be hoping that the Penguins and Lightning keep beating the crap out of each other so whichever team does win the Western Conference Finals can cruise to its first Stanley Cup with ease.