AS I SEE IT COLUMN: A nation despairs


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With the Oilers’ heart-breaking game seven loss to some team from the deep south of America that almost no one in that city or state even knows they have a pro hockey team, let alone that they just won the Stanley Cup, I have some random thoughts on Canada’s ongoing NHL championship drought:

Odds were mightily stacked against the Oilers

In all of North American pro team sports history – NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB – there have been 407 times where a team has come back from a 3-0 deficit to force a game seven. Only 5 of them could close the deal. That means Edmonton had a 1.2% chance of hoisting the cup and a 98.8% chance of seeing Florida do it.

The utter class of Paul Maurice

The way former Jets coach Paul Maurice thanked his parents and all of his family in Canada showed how classy Maurice is. And it was beyond remarkable that he said his one remaining wish was for “Winnipeg to win the cup.” Have you ever heard a coach who has just won the Stanley Cup hope for his former team to win it? Maurice is incredible. The hockey world is unanimously happy that a truly great guy finally has his name on the cup.

The utter skill of Paul Maurice

When he left Winnipeg there were many fans and members of the media who openly speculated that Maurice was the problem with the Jets chronically under-performing. He has taken his Panthers to the NHL finals two years in a row and now his team is the toast of the league. Hopefully this will force his nay-sayers in these parts to permanently shut their pie-holes about Maurice. Clearly he was not the problem with the Jets.

Hockey is in Canada’s DNA

Canada’s reaction to Edmonton’s game 6 win revealed yet again that hockey is part of the fabric of this nation. CBC’s flagship news show ‘The National’ was top to bottom coverage of the Oilers win. For a brief moment in time the news did not matter. There was no war in Gaza, no convicted criminal and religious con artist running for the U.S. presidency, no bad news about climate change or inflation. Just wall-to-wall hockey talk. It was glorious.

Contrast that to the fact that most people in the city of Miami and the larger state of Florida have no idea what hockey is or that their team was in the final, compared to an entire nation hoping beyond hope that the Oilers would bring the Stanley Cup back to its rightful home in Canada.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman seemed more smug than usual handing out the silverware to the Panthers. He may feel vindicated bringing hockey to the deep south instead of Quebec, but even he knows that more sports fans in the states care about professional bowling than hockey. It looks like he genuinely likes seeing Canada suffer when it comes to the game of hockey. (He must have hated hearing the Canadian national sung louder in Miami than the American anthem.)

Did you see the 50-50 amounts?

In Miami the 50-50 draw was for $170,000. Edmonton’s 50-50 for game seven was over $19,000,000. (Yes, you read that correctly. Sure Gary, hockey is super popular in the deep south.)

Exciting hockey does not equal beautiful hockey

Yes there was drama and tension, but can any hockey fan honestly say that what we saw was beautiful hockey? Between the insipid cycling in the corners, the stupid dump-ins that almost never work, the ridiculous rugby- style scrums where the ref refuses to blow the whistle and the grating clickity-clackity sound of sticks on sticks, that’s not beautiful hockey. It’s a pinball machine on ice.

As Canada mourns its 30 plus year drought, the Sportsnet slogan rings truer now that it did even a few days ago.

“Stanley, it’s still time to come home.”

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