(Claus Anderson, Getty Images)

(Claus Anderson, Getty Images)

This year is the 20th anniversary of both the seminal NHL ’94 and the last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup. Way back in 1993, the Montreal Canadiens, with Patrick Roy in net and Jacques Demers behind the bench, defeated the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings in five games for their NHL-record 24th Stanley Cup as a franchise.

18 seasons have come and gone since then. Canadian teams have come close since — the Canucks made it to game seven of the Finals twice, the Flames and Oilers once each, and the Senators lost in five games — but haven’t been able to carve their names into the Cup itself.

As a result, every year around playoff time, the debate rages over who will be “Canada’s Team,” the marginally non-racist version of the “Great White Hope” that will battle for the pride of Canada and wrest the Stanley Cup from the evil clutches of the United States. For the first time since the 2005-06 season, there are four Canadian teams in the playoffs and thus four claimants to the throne. Who will be Canada’s Team? Who?

How about none of them, since the entire concept is idiotic.

This year, the debate started early, before even a single game of the first round. Kicking things off was none other than Jacques Demers, the coach of the last Canadian team to win the Cup. But he’s not advocating for the Canadiens as you might expect. Demers has instead claimed that the Toronto Maple Leafs are now “Canada’s Team” because they are a “blue collar” team.

In this instance, I suppose being “blue collar” means being terrible at your job and making a few talented people cover your ass week after week, while being lucky enough that your repeated mistakes don’t lead to a complete catastrophe that would get you fired. Personally, if I were a blue collar worker, I’d be insulted, but I digress. I take issue not with the idea that Canadian hockey fans should identify with a team that gets brutally out-shot night after night, relying on outstanding goaltending to survive the onslaught, but with the idea that there should be a team designated “Canada’s Team” at all.

Part of Demers’ reasoning is that he is seeing more and more Leafs fans in Ottawa:

“I work in Ottawa, and there are more people here talking about the Maple Leafs than talking about the Senators. Look: I won a Stanley Cup with Montreal. I will always be a Montreal Canadien.

“But what I am saying is, what is happening in Toronto is good for hockey and it is something the whole country could get behind.”

It seems to me that the real reason that Leafs fans are popping out of the woodwork across the country is that there have always been legions of Leafs fans, since they are a popular team — a combination of their rich history, the migration of Ontarians across the rest of Canada, and the fact that CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada has played a Leafs game every Saturday for the last 50-odd years. It’s just that there hasn’t been anything for Leafs fans to get excited about since before the 2005 lockout, so why would they make themselves known?

That Demers is relying on anecdotal evidence out of Ottawa, which is already notorious for its wealth of Leafs fans, makes it an even less reliable claim.

Actual fans of the Senators, however, are extremely unlikely to turn around and start cheering for the Leafs if the Senators are knocked out of the playoffs, unless they practice puck polygamy and cheer for more than one hockey team at a time, in which case they are dirty, rotten people who are barely fit to be called human and should be cast out of society for the good of us all.

Similarly, a Leafs fan isn’t going to start rooting for the Canadiens if they make it through to the Cup Final, no more than he or she would cheer for the Bruins. As for the teams that didn’t make the playoffs, no Albertan hockey fan is going to cheer for a team in Ontario and they’re definitely not going to cheer for the Canucks, and Jets fans are too busy still riding the high of getting their team back to care about the playoffs.

Put it this way: does a Leafs fan care more about 1993 or 1967?

Do Canucks fans care more about the last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup or about how their team has never won it? Most hockey fans are fans of a particular team to the exclusion of all others. They might still enjoy watching other teams play and may have a soft spot for another team or player, but when it comes down to it, they’re rooting for the success of one team and one team only.

Sure, there are some Canadian hockey fans who are extremely possessive of the Stanley Cup, asserting that it belongs to Canada and that every second it spends in the United States it is being sullied and tarnished. These people have a problem and should be avoided if at all possible. Even still, they’ll just end up cheering for whichever Canadian team makes it the farthest into the playoffs, so why bother debating the issue?

Besides, at some point all four Canadian teams will be knocked out of the post-season and these same people will switch allegiance to whichever American team has the most Canadians on the roster, particular good-ol’-Ontarian-boys-thumbs-up.

The only team that is actually Canada’s Team is Team Canada, and they’re not in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Instead, they’re playing in the World Championship and no one cares. So let’s give the whole “Canada’s Team” debate a rest, shall we?

Comments (25)

  1. Maybe the Pens are Team Canada. They have the largest %age of players from the 2010 Team Canada. You know, the good one.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_men%27s_national_ice_hockey_team#2010_Olympics_roster

  2. Mabey they’re Team Russia, since they have some of those too!

  3. The Kings have two members of the Olympic team, although then again they also have the entirety of the Slovenian team on their roster….

  4. Amen! I remember watching the 2011 cup and thinking how foolish it was for Canadians to root for the Canucks on the basis of national pride, when Boston had more players of Canadian citizenship (19) than Vancouver (14 ). Likewise my fellow Americans who didn’t realize the numbers were pretty much even for American players at 5, Vancouver and 6 , Boston (clearly our national pride would be better channeled into getting more kids into hockey!).
    And then you have those idiots booing (any) other nation’s national anthem …

    • The article very expressly (and correctly) ridiculed your point of view. Who cares about the nationalities on the roster, except maybe closet xenophobes?

      This is hockey, for goodness’ sake. Cheering for the “most Canadian” team is like cheering for the most Caucasian polo team.

  5. I’ve been trying to stress these points to anyone that would listen for the last 5 years but am always met with ignorance, as if I am unpatriotic or worse, blasphemous! I live in northern Alberta, Oil Country. My boss is a Canucks fan though because he thinks they have the best chance of any Canadian team to “bring the cup home.” He’s even said he would cheer for Calgary if they were in the playoffs. I shake my head.
    With such national diversity on every NHL team these days you cannot call any one team more Canadian than an other. I often point to the example of the Canucks being the least Canadian of teams. They’re starting goalie is an American, they’re captain is a Swede and the “A’s” are often worn by 2 other players of the aforementioned nationalities. How does that make you a fucking Canadian team?

  6. I think the “Canada’s team” mentality is of the casual hockey fan that tunes in when the playoffs begin.

    • Agreed. You start hearing it from people outside the usual hockey conversation around this time of year.

    • I completely agree. that is why it’s best to ignore them and not try to engage in a converations about hockey. Fairweather fans should discuss the game at level appropriate of someone who needs to hold face in a mid playoff water cooler convo, and be left to do so amongst themselves. Being from Leaf land, and living in parts of Canada that are largely Canucks folowers while being a Flames fan has taught me to bite my tongue for fear of logic falling on deaf ears and glazed over facial expressions.

  7. I’ve never understood using Canadian players in HOCKEY as a metric. Like cheering for the team with the most Australians in Aussie Rules Football. Pick a better battle, jingoists.

  8. The only real discussion one should be having is what conference the Cup belongs in. As we all know, the West is the Best!

  9. Haha… trashing someone for cheering for a Canadian team is just as bad as forcing Canadians to cheer for a Canadian team… this is sports… rooting alliances don’t always make sense… people like to root for Canadian teams for the same reason they cheer for the home city team… for the most part, you root for the team in your city… so what is so different from rooting for a team in your country?… at the same time… I understand when fans don’t want to cheer for a rival just because it is a Canadian team… I agree the narritive is overused and annoys the hardcores… but for a casual fan, why wouldn’t you cheer for a team in your country… and it is… after all… our game…

    for me… I am a Canucks fan… but I think its time the Cup came back to Canada… I will root for all other Canadian teams if my team does not win it… why?… becuase I think we care a little more out here about hockey… and I would rather see a fellow Canadian enjoy the win… even if its a Leafs fan and even if it means they will rub it in my face…

  10. I cheer for teams from cities that care about hockey and that’s why I care about Canadian teams the most. Of course there are major markets in the United States, but I doubt many of those teams have the community support of Canadian cities. Then, of course, there are the cities that shouldn’t even have teams. These are the teams I hope do not win.

  11. The leafs are Canada’s team I have lived out west & they are popular everywhere only a leaf hater would say they are not. No matter where you go you will find leaf fans

  12. “becuase I think we care a little more out here about hockey”, “I cheer for teams from cities that care about hockey and that’s why I care about Canadian teams the most.” — this is funny. We all love our teams, yet it’s Canadians that think they have this higher love.

    Hope the Cup stays in the States just to annoy you.

    • Are you actually trying to claim that cities like Phoenix, Tampa Bay, and Nashville love hockey as much as any Canadian city? That is what I meant by cities that “shouldn’t have teams”. I sure hope not because that would make you insane.
      Now you could make the case that cities like Boston, Detroit, and Chicago care as much about hockey as any Canadian city, but even then, I would disagree. In case you hadn’t noticed, Canadian cities don’t have a huge number of NFL, NBA, and MLB franchises. Hockey is the only game is town.
      I don’t know why you take such offense to this. I’m not saying American hockey fans are bad, but rather Canadians are just really, really crazy about hockey.

  13. So the real point of this article is that the Leafs are not Canada’s team but rather that they are North Amarica’s team because the passion that drives us Leafs fans knows no boundaries or borders!! I had to read it through a couple times to get the real message written between the lines but I see it now. Clever..

    Go Leafs.

  14. As long as the Canucks don’t win it, I’m happy with whichever team does.. American, Canadian, Mexican…. Doesn’t matter!

  15. ‘It’s not the name on the back, but the name on the front that you root for’.
    If that was not the case, I would be rooting for all clubs inside the National Hockey League.
    Canadian Teams(Corporations) are etched within our Country. American Teams are etched within theirs. As mentioned in previous responses to this article, this notion that all people who root for any Canadian team (if their team is ousted) are ‘casual fans who only come around when the playoffs start’ is disheartening to hear. There is local, provincial, and national pride that can be a part of a fan’s experience with any sport, from off-season to the last dance. It may be irrational, especially if the Canadian team is not owned by a Canadian-based corporation, but nevertheless. I don’t root for a player, I root for a *team*. Since there are other teams that are a part of a country that I love, they are the next in line. Since there are only 7 in total in comparison to 23 American Teams, I really don’t see why this is a huge issue.
    Give it a rest? Sure. Stop being a fucking idiot? Why am I even considered one for doing this?
    There is no doubt my favorite team takes precedence over all. Yet, I love my country as well.
    I am not going to switch jerseys once my team gets knocked out to another Canadian team, yet if they do, and I feel strongly about the Habs, Leafs, ‘Nucks, because I would like to see it brought back to the other side of the border, I don’t see why I should be considered an ‘idiot’ or a ‘casual fan’.
    If someone wants to explain this to me – why I am dead wrong from here to the furthest puck drop – by all means. I would love to understand so I am not considered a ‘leppard’ when I talk in hockey bars.

  16. The Canucks have played in all of the top 10 rated games ever on HNiC. Most viewers in Canada means your Canada’s team.

  17. I will cheer for every Canadian team other than the Leafs. Just can’t bring myself to do it.

    I don’t necessarily think the idea of cheering for a team just because they are Canadian is a bad idea. Why you cheer for any team is totally illogical. I am a die-hard Montreal fan who is from Ottawa and lives in Vancouver. I assume that my family in Ottawa is going to refuse to speak to me for the next two weeks (and possibly forever if Ottawa wins) but I can’t not cheer for the habs. No connection to the city and I don’t even speak French that well…but they are my team.

    It is no more illogical to decide to cheer for a team based on their national origin as it is their colours, their roster or to fit in in a city. One die hard fan criticizing another fan’s reasons seems a little like the pot calling the kettle black.

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