As it seems increasingly likely that the Montreal Canadiens will be Canada's only entrant into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it has also become high time for some to talk about "Canada's Team", again. No, we're not saying the Habs are Canada's team, but one might say that they are this years "Canada's Team". The last bastion of Canadian hope to take the Stanley Cup back home for the first time in 21 years, the one that will carry the Maple Leaf flag on high and parade it around wherever they may march... That sounded a little too much like a parody for it to be real, but in some circles it is. And the hockey world goes through this song and dance every single playoffs. Two questions: Why, and can this be stopped immediately?
Maybe there's a mis-perception that all of Canada is unified behind whatever team is the last one standing in the playoff dogfight, and whether it be an American or Canadian perception is not really relevant. Maybe this does go along with the (false) sense that Canadian fans aren't as tribal as their counterparts down South. And in a shocking development... they're pretty tribal, and in some cases more tribal than American fans. It would pain the hearts of already pained Leafs fans to see the Habs hoist the Stanley Cup, as it would pain fans of the Sens, probably the Canucks (because no one in Canada aside from Vancouver likes them, apparently), and the prairie teams too... because their team didn't win. It's just as natural as a Rangers fan not wanting the Flyers to win the Stanley Cup because they're the "last Metropolitan team standing". So why do some assume that "Canada's team" is always the last one standing? Is it because the media microscope is focused on them the tightest? Is it really because Jim Hughson and company are calling their games for Hockey Night? Please.
Maybe the sentiment is louder this year because the rest of Canada's NHL outfits have either been shipwrecks, or dumpster fires, or dumpster fires of shipwrecks. That still doesn't change anything for Johnny Leafs fan in Etobicoke, who'd want nothing more than to see the Habs flame out of the postseason. It would be the same for any Habs fan rooting for the Leafs if they were last in, or a Flames fan rooting for the Oilers (it has happened in the past, snop snickering), etc, etc. Yes, people born in the time between the Habs hoisting the Cup in 1993 and now are just about to be of legal drinking age in the States (commence feeling old), but that doesn't mean that the Canadian exceptionalist has to root for the Habs because they're the last one with a Canadian postmark left in the postseason.
The Cup's coming "home" anyway, because the majority of every team's roster is Canadian to begin with!
But that doesn't answer the question of "why", even if it does get the fringes to silence themselves for 30 seconds. In fact, this rings a bit close to home for some of us.
Remember those "fans" around the BCS National Championship game every year who would root for the SEC flavor of the year because they too were a fan of a SEC team? And you really hated those people, and loved it when everyone made fun of them? Maybe this is in fact the Canadian version of that... we have to root for the last Canadian team at the ball because they are Canadian and I'm Canadian... makes sense, doesn't it? It's a twisted version of "I'm an Ole Miss fan who watched my team get pumped by Alabama this year, but I'm going to root for them because SEC!" with a "eh" thrown in. It somehow tickles a pleasure sensor in the brain that responds to subtle validation of their own teams worthlessness. "I don't feel as bad about my team being junk now since one of the teams in our conference that beat the stuffing out of us just won the National Championship! Go SEC!" and "I'm rooting for the Habs because they're Canadian and I'm Canadian and it makes me happy to see a Canadian team win the Cup even though (insert any of the other 6 here) is garbage. Go Canada!" sound eerily similar. But that's just an analogy, not an answer.
Truth is, there probably isn't an answer to why this silly ritual gets revived and recanted annually in the middle of April. And finding one is probably fruitless. If that's the case, then this is my personal plea for it to stop, from the fans to the hacks (sic media) who want to further it.
Bruce Arthur, who is a far better scribe than I'll ever be, said it best:
"We've already seen a hockey team this year that united the country with Price in goal. One was enough".
One certainly is enough.