Who to cheer for in the Stanley Cup playoffs - Macleans.ca

Who to cheer for in the Stanley Cup playoffs

Are we allowed to root for the other Canadian teams?

Who to cheer for in the Stanley Cup playoffs

Photo by Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

It has been deemed appropriate for Maclean’s to address the most urgent question of the day: what is the right attitude to adopt toward other Canadian NHL teams once your own has been eliminated from the playoffs? This is one of the rare issues in which public sentiment appears to lie in an enduring, almost perfect 50-50 balance. (Note: this is one of the 4.7 per cent of statistics cited in magazines that is completely made up on the spot.) People of a naturally patriotic bent—and while Canadians do not think of themselves as aggressive flag-wavers, outsiders with experience of us will contradict this instantly—believe in transferring one’s primary loyalty to some other Canadian club that has a chance of bringing home the Cup. Others prefer to cheer against surviving Canadian teams. They want their own club to be the one that finally brings the grail back to Canada after what may shortly become a 20-year absence.

The “unpatriotic” fan, if he has any imagination, absolutely cannot bear to consider a life that continues after some other Canadian team restores the Cup to our soil. Imagine how much devastation the wave of smugness from Montreal would wreak across the land if the Habs won it again. Imagine how quick Toronto sportswriters would be to start cramming even the dopiest, most stone-handed members of a Cup-winning Leaf squad into the Hall of Fame. Envision the Canucks winning a Cup, and you have foreseen a British Columbia utterly consumed in an orgy of witless, self-congratulating fire. If Calgary or Edmonton were ever to win it again, suicide rates in the other city, whichever it was, would surely skyrocket on the day of the abominable parade.

Social media has had the effect of binding Canadians together and giving us all more experience of the diverse ways of seeing the world that prevail in other regions of this magnificent land. This turns out to be, in some respects, quite vile. Quirky preoccupations we once might have thought of as being shared by a few friends or neighbours—oh, there’s Gord, mowing the lawn in his Mike Bossy jersey again—turn out to be thriving mass cults which not only celebrate evil, but flood your Twitter and Facebook timelines with it when so-and-so picks up a hat trick. And are we imagining things when we perceive subtle and horrid taxonomic distinctions between fandoms? Is it fact or fiction that Montreal and Toronto have a distinctive terrible habit of prematurely perching their goalies on a narrow, quavering pedestal? Are we fantasizing when we see an inexplicable difference between the passive, sleepy sarcasm of the Calgary Flames Nation and the flagellating, almost garish public angst of downtrodden Oil Country?

These are the mysteries of being a hockey fan in the 21st century. But some people came into the new world better prepared, and they are perhaps the bulk of the more tolerant, patriotic fans. Canada’s NHL teams are divided not only by geography but by history, and therefore many people who never knew a world without the Ottawa Senators have older relatives who have never quite let go of the Leafs or the Canadiens. (The actual existence of Senators fans is a conjecture we must ask the reader to accept without evidence.) Moreover, young people sometimes just apostasize outright from the faith of their fathers, or move to a new city just before an exciting local playoff run. In the real world, national loyalties are sometimes dual, and plenty of unimpeachably patriotic Canadians have a “second favourite,” or a lingering affection for some “old country” for perfectly natural and acceptable reasons. So too with hockey.

The NHL may soon be coming to more Canadian cities; rumours are rampant that the league is thinking better of its Sunbelt experiment and must start moving troubled franchises back to a place where hockey is measurably more popular than jury duty or a cleaning at the dentist. The gates of Quebec City, Hamilton, Saskatoon, and Stewiacke, N.S., stand ajar, waiting to welcome refugees from financially stricken “sand states.” The more this happens, of course, the greater will be the pressure on existing teams to bring home the Cup. Perhaps it really would be better if someone finally ended the absurd misery this post-season, even if it weren’t necessarily our own favourites. But, ugh, just as long as it’s not the Canadiens. Or the Leafs. Or the Sens or the Canucks.


Who to cheer for in the Stanley Cup playoffs

  1. My hierarchy:
    1. The Habs (my favourite)
    2. The Oilers (my boyfriend’s favourite) [that has yet to be an issue. Hah!]
    3. Original Six (with the exception of the Leafs)
    4. Any other Canadian team (however begrudgingly)

  2. Rhiannon, if you are a Habs fan you should immediately get a CAT scan.

  3. For starters, the Canucks are owned by an America, as were the Habs; maybe still are.
    The Leafs were publicly subsidized via showing every game even when they were only better than the Jackets in between lockouts. Which is fine, except the Leafs were actively blocking other compoeting franchise applications in the area. The one saving grace is it is tough to know where to put another one. The Waterloo area before RIM failed to diversify (ie healthcare tech) from the soon competitive Blackberry market? Vaughn (do immigrants like hockey)? Hamilton before oil rose. If this were clear I’d say cheering for the Leafs would’ve been anti-cdn. There shouldn’t be a team 60km in the desert where no NHLer will ever grow up from. And Cgy and Edm are fighting new backyard Gretzkys by encouraging AGW.
    I cheer for wise GMs. I cheer for exciting teams. And I cheer for cdn teams. Mtl is exciting and cdn. Ott is dumb, but now exciting and cdn. I got to see an Oiler game because they sucked…I imagine T.O. with Rask and Seguin and Hamilton…the NHL ruined Pittburgh for me (and Cooke a bit too by injuring the #1/#2 player in the league) by letting them maul Tampa game one 2011. It might’ve been a Canucks cup.
    St Louis was the last team to have all cdns, and got Steen who funds medical research even if his dad ran against this.
    I’ll cheer for Detroit and Chi and watch the best non-Olympic/World-Cup hockey there is. Crappy goaltending gets my viewership if it comes with better offense. Play Tatar!!

    • I dunno if all the old emotions will come back against Oilers and Canucks. Flames let the Jets win in the equivalent of the Jays division.

  4. In our market we have Maple Leafs shoved down our throats. I live in a community several hours away from Toronto and I have Winnipeg Jets games blacked out, Ottawa Senators games only shown on low def TV channels, Montreal Canadiens games broadcast mainly in French and the time zone difference makes watching further western teams not practical. As a result I know more about the players on the Leafs team then any other and not by choice.

    It is hard to form an emotional attachment to a team other than the Maple Leafs as the sheer exposure they enjoy in Ontario is overwhelming and very biased. Walk into the Canadian Tire here in my town and you will find one or two items branded with non-Leafs team logos and 30 with the Maple Leaf all over them.

    Last season HBO had that great mini-series highlighting the Rangers and Flyers and I really got to know the players on those teams. Made watching the outdoors game a lot more interesting. So much so that I watched more Rangers games than I did any other Canadian team.

    I would love to see more promotion of other Canadian teams on the CBC, in the news, etc. An HBO-style mini-series on the CBC featuring the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs “Battle for Ontario” would be hugely popular in Ontario, or an “Original Six” Toronto vs Montreal series, or the rivalries out west with Edmonton and Calgary.

    So I root for the Ottawa Senators, mainly cause it annoys all the Leaf-a-holics here in my office. Then I hope the Leafs win as they are from Ontario. Next I cheer on the Western Canadian teams. Then Montreal as I don’t feel particularly liked or accepted by Quebec in general. Then the original six American teams and finally the teams on the West Coast of the US that have seemed to find a market, Anaheim, LA and San Jose. Any other teams left usually leave me feeling empty and I tune out.

    Given more exposure I feel like that list of “priorities” could change. You would be lucky if I could name more than one player on the Canucks, Flames, Oilers, Jets or Montreal. And I find that a failing of the NHL, CBC and other sports networks in TV, radio, print and online.

  5. No way. If Ottawa is out, I don’t want any other Canadian teams to win.

  6. I’m positive the 90% of Canadians outside of B.C. will be happy when San Jose, like L.A. before them, tweet, ‘to the rest of Canada, you’re welcome”, when they kick those embarassing Canucks and their fans to the golf course!

  7. If Calgary is out, which seems to be a reocurring trend and will be for some years now, I will cheer for Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Montreal. I don’t know why but seeing Toronto, Edmonton or most of all the Canucks raise that cup would rub me the wrong way. Man i hate the canucks. Go San Jose!

  8. I used to cheer for other Canadian teams when mine was out, but this year I’m making an exception: I’m cheering for whomever is playing the Leafs. Two reasons: (a) the proportion of Leafs fans who cheer against other Canadian teams has been growing excessively and (b) pro-Leafs HNIC commentators who might as well be calling a game against the Soviets – they spend too little time informing viewers about the Leafs opponents.
    Kinda weird cheering for Boston, but I feel so much better now :-)

  9. Just a word to any American teams that face off against our boys up here in Canukistan. We will kick your Yankee Doodle ass all the way back down to Dixieland. And that’s my personal guarantee.

  10. Well, I cheer for the Leafs, but I bet on the Bruins in my pool. My emotions could not trump logic, sadly.

    My official hierarchy (adopted about the time Tampa Bay, San Jose, Anaheim, and Phoenix got teams):

    1. Leafs.
    2. Any other Canadian team.
    3. Boston.
    4. Any American team in a city that experiences winter, except the Rangers.
    5. Teams in the American south.
    6. Teams in Europe who fly to North America to steal the cup under cover of darkness.
    7. Any human on earth not remotely connected to the Rangers.
    8. Fantasy teams from movies/TV shows who get magically transported to this dimension and steal the cup under cover of darkness.

    9. The Rangers.