Losing hockey teams are as Canadian as maple syrup. When the National Hockey League playoffs start on Wednesday night, just two of seven Canadian teams (Vancouver and Ottawa) will be playing.
We’re losers at what we love. And it hurts.
Why are Canada’s hockey teams, all of them financially healthy, such losers? Because the organizations tolerate losing or don’t know how to produce winning teams.
Either way, in an era of freewheeling hockey emphasizing speed and skill, Canadian teams haven’t kept up. Detroit is always the exemplar of high-skilled teams; what it knows, most Canadian hockey clubs can only guess at.
It’s truly pathetic. Two Canadian teams finished in the bottom five, out of 30, three years in a row. The worst indignity – the Montreal Canadiens, Les Glorieux, ended this season in third-last place.
No Canadian-based team has won the Stanley Cup since Montreal won in 1993.
Then there are the Toronto Maple Leafs – the only team in the NHL not to make the playoffs even once since the lockout of 2004-05. Every season a lost season.
To fail the long-suffering fans, in Toronto and elsewhere, is heartless, verging on cruel.
The Leafs organization actually took out full-page newspaper advertisements on Tuesday to apologize to fans. “We make no excuses. Results are the only measure of success in sports and the results speak for themselves.” Words, words, words. The team’s general manager, Brian Burke, has complained that the media distract the players. Others have blamed losing on opposing players from Canada trying harder on Hockey Night in Canada. Go figure.
When he took over the team nearly four years ago, Mr. Burke said it suffered from “blue-and-white-disease” – big egos and laziness. But virtually all the players are new since then, and the team still loses.
The fans across the country can only take it. They can’t boycott the games. Canadian hockey fans aren’t that type.
It’s reminiscent of days when Canada was a perennial Olympic also-ran. But then in the Vancouver Olympics, this country said it would Own the Podium and it did.
No more excuses. No more tolerance of losing.