Trying to rally support around the Senators is a losing cause on Parliament Hill, and that is not a reference to the country’s unelected and overspending legislators.
Rather, it’s the Ottawa Senators hockey team that’s at the bottom of the heap among Canadian playoff entries when it comes to support among the 308 MPs. An informal survey of hockey sentiments in Parliament reveals the Senators are still struggling to win over political hearts in their hometown, despite the best efforts of such locals as Conservative MP John Baird and New Democrat MP Paul Dewar.
Highlighting the prevailing allegiances on the Hill, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are rooting for the Montreal Canadiens against the Senators, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hoping his Maple Leafs come back from a 1-0 deficit against the Boston Bruins.
Hockey persuasions are often bred in childhood, and with Ottawa only a temporary home to politicians from across the country, the Senators fail to ignite the most passion in the corridors of power.
Despite their partisan differences, Mr. Baird and Mr. Dewar are working jointly to boost the popularity of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson and company. But they acknowledge they can’t compete with the Original Six Canadiens or Leafs.
“I’m always trying to convert people to love all things Ottawa, and there are a few people that I’m working on,” said Mr. Dewar, the son of a former Ottawa mayor and the MP for Ottawa Centre since 2006.
Through his office, Mr. Baird, the Foreign Affairs Minister, said that he “never shies away from promoting the Sens. However, Canadians across the country have their favourite teams, and changing these views can be a near-impossible task.”
The Globe and Mail did find a non-Ottawa supporter of the Senators: Conservative MP David Anderson. However, Mr. Anderson said he is behind the team largely because one of its forwards, Zack Smith, hails from Maple Creek in his Saskatchewan riding. “If Calgary were in the playoffs,” he said, “I’d be supporting them.”
The modern-day version of the Senators only entered the National Hockey League in 1992, and while they went all the way to the Stanley Cup final in 2007, they don’t have the history or pedigree of the older Canadian franchises. Senators’ fans have grown tired of the large cheering sections for opposing teams in their own rink, and the frustration is set to grow when the Canadiens – and their boisterous fans from both sides of the Ottawa River – show up for Game 3 on Sunday. Montreal politicians, after all, have long come to Ottawa to run the country – while continuing to root for the Habs – and the Highway 417 series is bound to stir up a new playoff rivalry.
“The reality is that everyone who comes up to Ottawa, their heart is always back home,” said Patrick Brown, the Conservative MP for Barrie and a Leafs fan into eternity. “I think your allegiances in sports are built during your childhood, and being up here for temporary periods won’t change that.”
Calgary’s Joan Crockatt said that without either Alberta team in the playoffs, Western MPs like her are more naturally drawn to Vancouver than to its eastern rivals. “I’m rooting for the Canucks,” she said.
While a large number of MPs cheer for Toronto or Montreal, there are other favourites in town, notably the Boston Bruins, who attracted a northern following in the glory days of Bobby Orr. NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Brian Masse, as well as Liberal MPs Geoff Regan and Scott Simms, all are hoping that Beantown beats the Buds in the ongoing series.
Newfoundland MP Ryan Cleary, meanwhile, is cheering for Detroit, but that is because his cousin, Daniel Cleary, plays for the Red Wings. Mr. Cleary added that he also has a soft spot for the Canadiens. “They have Michael Ryder, who is also from Newfoundland,” the New Democrat MP said.
Ottawa being Ottawa, the playoffs are not all fun and games. Conservative MP Roxanne James stood up in the House of Commons on Wednesday to inject a large dose of politics into the national game. Ms. James made it clear the Conservative Party’s anti-Trudeau ads will be running on television during the playoffs. She also took other shots, pointing out the last time the Maple Leafs made the playoffs nine years ago, “Canadians were still being governed by a tired and corrupt Liberal government.”
Amid the various rivalries, Mr. Harper took to Twitter with the only message that stands to rally a majority of Canadians at this time of year: “Four Canadian teams in the playoffs this year – let’s hope we can bring the Stanley Cup home.”