For the first time since the 1969-70 season, there likely won’t be a single Canadian team in the NHL playoffs.
All seven teams from north of the border are currently sitting outside of the playoffs by at least three games, and there’s little room to improve as the end of the season approaches. The only other season where Canadian teams failed to make the playoffs was back when there were only two Canadian teams in a 12 team league.
Many fans are calling this playoff shutout an embarrassment for Canada and are asking “how could our teams not excel at Canada’s most popular sport? Who will Canada cheer for to win it all?”
Frankly, it doesn’t really matter whether or not any Canadian teams make the playoffs. Habs fans have had to watch their team plummet in the standings after a phenomenal start to the season, and Oilers faithful have to suffer through the tenth consecutive year without a playoff birth. Each fan of the 14 teams that fail to make the playoffs have to sit by and watch as their team goes golfing in the spring, rather than battle in the playoffs.
But the fact that the other teams also failed to make the playoffs doesn’t matter at all. Whether or not the Senators make the playoffs won’t affect most Jets fans. For their part, most Flames fans are glad that the Canucks won’t make the playoffs. The idea that Canadians are supposed to cheer for all the Canadian teams is ignorant, and doesn’t begin to consider much of what people love about hockey.
The Canadiens and Maple Leafs do not share a fan base. The rivalry between these two teams goes back a century, and they certainly won’t cheer for each other to succeed. The age-old battle of Alberta between the Flames and Oilers leaves also little room for any fan to cheer for their nearest rival. With a history involving playoff battles in the 80s and an assault of Flames mascot Harvey the Hound, fans of each team will cheer for anyone but the other.
The majority of Canadian fans want their own team to succeed and have no interest in any of the others making it to the playoffs. However, it raises the fair question of who Canadian fans will cheer for. The answer? Who knows.
Some people have a secondary team they want to see win, or watch a seasoned veteran finally hoist the cup. Others could cheer for the teams with the most Canadian players,which behind Ottawa is a three-way tie between the Avalanche, Blues and Leafs.
The Avalanche and Blues each have 16 Canadian players of their active 25 man roster, yet these teams are not mentioned as candidates for Canada’s team. Despite being the most Canadian teams that are competing for a playoff spot they are not looked at as anything more than another American team.
The idea that the second ever Canada-free playoffs is some great national tragedy is ludicrous. Canadian players make up just under half the league (by population) and are represented on every team. Every year dozens of Canadians make the playoffs, and at least a half dozen of them hoist the cup. The guarantee that several Canadians will raise the cup shows the excellence of Canadian hockey better than having a single Canadian team in the playoffs.
Each team represents one city. And that city is who’s represented in the playoffs, not the nation it’s in. Despite the current failures of all seven Canadian teams, there’s no need to panic — hockey is still Canada’s game.