Hockey. If you believe all those T-shirts and TV commercials, it's more than Canada's national sport, it's a way of life. Wait, hold on, it isn't the national sport? That's lacrosse? Whoa! Okay, so maybe it isn't the national sport, but it sure is super popular. Sadly, loving something isn't always enough to make your dreams come true.
After all, no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens (although Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver have all made the final since then). And now we don't even have a single team in the playoffs.
But hey, don't fret. After all, for a couple teams, this was a part of the plan all along. The Toronto Maple Leafs are rebuilding their team and traded away most of their best players, like Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, in return for picks (each pick is the chance to choose a young player for the future of your team in what's called the draft). The Edmonton Oilers, who have had the number one pick in 4 of the last 6 drafts (yes, that is VERY rare), has a team full of talented players. But many of them, especially super rookie Connor McDavid (aka the next Sidney Crosby) are still a bit young and few people expected them to reach the playoffs. Even the Vancouver Canucks were a bit of a longshot — they're led by the Sedin twins, two beloved brothers who are sadly just getting a little old to be as effective as they used to be (though they are genius players).
Really tough league
But the other four Canadian teams? They're pretty disappointed. All of them were in the playoffs last season and felt they would be even better this year. But it just goes to show how tough a league the NHL can be. After all, the 2014 champion Los Angeles Kings missed the playoffs in 2015 (they're back in this year though). And as tough as it is to play, it can be tougher to predict.
Both the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets went from surprising a few people last season when they made the playoffs to surprising just as many when they didn't make them this year. And the Ottawa Senators — who have an exceptional leader in captain Erik Karlsson — just couldn't seem to string together enough wins when it mattered most (in other words, at the end of the year).
But the one that stings the most for their fans is what happened to the Montreal Canadiens.
That's because this year the Habs got off to the very best start of any season in their history. And we're not talking about just any NHL team here. The Canadiens are the oldest, most Cup-winning, most dominant NHL club, period. Then, their star goalie, Carey Price, got injured and eventually missed the rest of the year. After that, Montreal went from number one in the league to being one of the very worst teams in NHL.
There's always next year
So while most of the rest of the league gets ready to chase the Stanley Cup, Canada's teams look toward next year. For some teams, the future looks pretty bright. Price should be fully healed and ready to roll for the Canadiens next year. And teams like the Leafs and Oilers can look forward to grabbing more young players in this year's draft. As for all of the hockey fans in these parts, well, take comfort in this fact: we still account for 49.7% of the players in the league. So even if you're not cheering for a Canadian team there are still plenty of "locals" for you to root for this spring.
Let's go… Florida? Sure, why not.