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Even if they fell short, the Edmonton Oilers defied regionalism to unite Canadians in the Stanley Cup final

مجلة المذنب نت متابعات عالمية:

Canadian hockey fans were optimistic going into the National Hockey League playoffs this year, with four of the seven teams being Canadian: Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Edmonton all qualified. Hopes were high when the Edmonton Oilers made it to the final stretch, but they fell short of victory in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup, extending the drought for Canadian teams.

A Canadian team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since the 1993-94 Montreal Canadiens. Since that time, 15 different American teams have won the Cup. Boston Pizza advertisements made light of the three-decade Stanley Cup drought and suggested that perhaps Canadian hockey fans might support all the Canadian teams.

This prompted an immediate backlash from some Canadian hockey fans. It seems that most Canadian hockey fans are happy to cheer for their team, but not other Canadian teams.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Canadian fans won’t cheer for other Canadian teams. This country has a long history of regionalism, with each region having different economic and political cultures.

In the Canadian federation, regions tend to compete against each other, rather than co-operate. This also corresponds to favourite hockey teams.

Capturing the hearts of Canadians

Surveys show that the three Eastern Canadian NHL teams — Ottawa, Montréal and Toronto — are not among the top three favourite teams in Western Canada.

In Eastern Canada, Winnipeg is the only Western team that cracks the top three in popularity, ranking as just the third favourite team in Ontario and Québec. Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton are not in the top three. None of the Western Canadian NHL teams make the top three in Atlantic Canada.

Edmonton Oilers fans cheer and arrive before the Oilers take on the Florida Panthers during Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals in Sunrise, Fla., on June 24, 2024.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

However, this Stanley Cup, it seems the underdog Oilers were able to capture the support of many Canadians. Despite a survey suggesting Canadians weren’t interested in following the Stanley Cup, TV ratings were massive, and ticket prices were stratospheric.

More than 5.5 million Canadians watched Game 6, making it one of the most watched TV shows in Canada this year. The average cost of a Game 6 ticket on SeatGeek for the last game in Edmonton was $9,203.83 and the cheapest Game 6 tickets were $1,896.

Almost nine in 10 Canadians following the Stanley Cup were cheering for the Oilers. How did the Oilers capture the attention of the entire country?

Desperation breeds solidarity

As the Stanley Cup drought grew longer, Canadians began to grow more desperate, to the point where they would cheer for any Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup again. Historically, this has been heresy.

A Vancouver Canuck fan does not cheer for the Winnipeg Jets, and due to the Battle of Alberta, a Calgary Flames fan never cheers for the Oilers.

However, the drought has even led some fans of the Calgary Flames to support their arch-rival, the Edmonton Oilers. The desperation for a Canadian victory is so strong that it transcends traditional rivalries.

Canadian hockey fans weren’t cheering for the Canadiens in this round of the playoffs, but they may have been cheering for Canadians, as in Canadian hockey players.

Sports became more popular when teams were composed of players from the cities they represented. In representative sport, the players truly represented the fans, and the fans could identify with the players. In 1968, about 98 per cent of the players in the NHL were Canadian, but today that has dropped to just over 40 percent.

The Oilers stand out in this context; they have more players from Canada than almost any other NHL team. They also consistently played twice as many Canadians as the Florida Panthers, making them a natural choice for fans eager to support Canadian hockey players.

Connor ‘McJesus’

Fans may have also supported the Oilers because they are led by a bonafide superstar. After nine years in the league, Connor McDavid, a generational player who has been labelled the best player in the world, finally made it to the Stanley Cup final.

In Edmonton, McDavid was affectionately called Connor ‘McJesus’ for leading the Oilers out of the wilderness. The team had missed the playoffs 10 years in a row until it drafted McDavid in 2015.

Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers congratulates Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov after Florida won Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

During this year’s Stanley Cup series, the Oilers’ captain demonstrated his incredible skills by scoring four points in back-to-back must-win games, setting a playoff assist record, and scoring 42 playoff points, ranking him alongside two of the greatest players ever: Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

He was named the Conn Smythe winner as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup and was even accused of being “too Canadian.” Many Canadian fans were likely cheering on McDavid to win the Cup.

Everyone loves an underdog

Everyone loves a good underdog story and that may influence fans to cheer for a team. Historically, Canadians have supported the underdog more often because Canada appears to be in that position more frequently, especially when compared to the United States.

Early in the season, the Oilers were in last place in the NHL. They finished the regular season with 104 points, the lowest of the final eight playoff teams.

The Oilers were the ultimate underdogs in the playoffs. They were down two games to one against Dallas, three games to two against Vancouver and three games to none against Florida, necessitating dramatic comebacks. Five times they faced elimination, and each time, they won the next game and survived.

No team had successfully come back from a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup since the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, heightening the drama and excitement of this year’s final. The Oilers may have captured Canadian hockey fans as the ultimate underdog.

Whatever the reason, Canadians were not only interested in this year’s Stanley Cup, but were also surprisingly supportive of the Oilers. Despite Canadian teams’ futility chasing a Stanley Cup over the past three decades and the decline in the “Canadianess” of the NHL, perhaps hockey is still Canada’s game.

Per capita, Canadians watched the Stanley Cup final at a rate nine times more than Americans. In these divisive times, hockey may have united Canadians once again.


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