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May. 28, 2022 | Saturday
Editorials and Opinions
Ross's Ramblings: Not in the antipodes, but the Stanley Cup has been MIA
A Canadian team hasn't won the Stanley Cup since 1993. (Sportsnet)

Let’s get back to our Canadian roots, and talk some hockey. I’m distressed by what has happened to “our game.”

Between 1948 and 1998, the first 50 years of my life, we Canadians could argue that we dominated hockey.  In fact, 29 of the 50 Stanley Cup winners during that half century were teams based in Canada. Oui, oui, my Montreal Canadiens won 18 or those 29 Cups. But who was counting?

Then, the great majority of NHL players were Canadians, from such hockey towns as Kirkland Lake, Cochrane (Tim Horton,) Rouyn-Noranda, Moose Jaw, Winnipeg and Sault Ste. Marie. This is a bit off topic, but if someone from Montreal is a Montrealer, does it follow that someone from the Sault is a Sewer? Hey, just kidding. We need a laugh or two these days.

Which brings me to my query: Why has the Stanley Cup essentially disappeared from Canada? No Canadian based team has won The Cup since 1993. That’s 29 years! And yes, the Habs won it that year, with Patrick Roy “standing on his head,” as the talking heads would have been saying.

During those 29 years, 13 different U.S. based teams have won The Cup, including teams from Florida, Texas and California. Hey, it can’t be that hard, eh? I know, I know, there are only seven teams based in Canada now, and 25 in the States. Still, so many of the skill players are not Canadian, including some nine of the current top 20 scorers.

Yes, I really did a deep dive into the NHL online, to prove my point that the game of hockey is leaving us behind. I ramble, but I really am flummoxed by the state of the world’s fastest game.

Not too many years ago, a good Canadian lad had to “play Junior A” to get to the NHL. Draft 16-year-olds, take them away from their families, billet them, and hope for the best. Sheesh, the temptations.

Now, neither of the two most discussed NHLers played a game of Junior. They did it their way.

Auston Taylour Matthews was born in California, and his family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona when he was an infant. His main coach in Arizona was Boris Dorozhenko, a Ukrainian who had played professional hockey in the former USSR, and then spent several years as the director of the Mexico Ice Hockey Federation. Do you think Boris thought outside of the box or boards? Not exactly the traditional route, but there is obviously more than one way to skin a coyote.

Auston decided to bail on the NCAA or Junior A hockey, playing in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. Then, he played for a year in the Swiss National “A” League, for the ZSC Lions near Zurich. Betcha didn’t know their rink held 11,200 flag waving fans, loving “our” great game with no fights and only the odd scrum after a whistle.

Where am I going now? How about some chatter about the Great 8, Alexander Mikhailovich Ovechkin? He was born in Moscow, to a very athletic father and a mother named Anastasia Shubskaya who won Olympic basketball gold medals in 1976 and 1980. This magnificent, gap toothed lover of “our game” just might break our Great Gretzky’s all time, impossible to surpass goal scoring record. And wasn’t it so classy when Ovy discreetly took time to welcome Carey Price back to the NHL the other night?

Let me awkwardly ramble to a conclusion, by mentioning standards of appearance in the NHL. I am not saying they should pick it up a notch, but these players are paid good money, and have time for a nap most days. Why not get Gillette or Schick to become the official razor blade supplier to the NHL, and ask all players to take five minutes for a shave?

Really, most of them look like they just got off a canoe trip in Algonquin Park, or some other great Canadian wilderness.

But I digress.