Oh, Canada! Is it still Canada’s game?
Wayne Gretzky? Check. Gordie Howe? Check. Mario Lemiuex? Check.
While these legendary names say hockey and Canada, all it takes is a quick glance up and down any current NHL roster and a check of birth certificates to understand that the game does not belong exclusively to the folks north of the border anymore.
While the game is certainly played on a much broader stage and on several continents these days, nothing says hockey like Canada. Where else do tournaments such as the World Junior Championships generate the loyal following and the excitement in places like Toronto and Montreal? Sure, the great game of hockey is followed with passion in places like Russia, Sweden, and Finland and is growing in counties like Switzerland and Norway, but it still doesn’t compare with the passion of fans in Canada.
With the 2016 World Cup of Hockey recently announced and Canada acting as the host, the world will get another chance to see just how much the game means north of the border. Chances are there aren’t too many Canadians that forgot their country’s championship performance in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, when Canada defeated Finland in the final (Vincent Lacavalier was MVP) and erased the bitter memory of losing to Team USA in the 1996 championship game on home ice (does anyone remember Tony Amonte’s game-winner?)
The difference here is that when most countries lose in international competition, whether it be in the World Cup, World Juniors, or in the Olympics, it is a momentary disappointment. When Canada loses, the entire county mourns and it’s not soon forgotten.
On the NHL level, there hasn’t been a Stanley Cup winner from Canada since the Montreal Canadiens defeated Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in 1993. If you think that’s no big deal, just talk to Maple Leaf fans in Toronto, where ownership literally broke the bank in the offseason to bring in the likes of head coach Mike Babcock from the Red Wings and Lou Lamoriello from the New Jersey Devils in an attempt to break the league’s longest Stanley Cup drought.
When the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Flames, Senators, Jets, or Oilers finally bring the Stanley Cup back to Canada, the celebration north of the border is sure to be long and loud from fans who will always consider the great game of hockey “their game.”
No argument here.