Canucks and Beyond

The NHL is Not 'Canada vs the USA'

04/14/2011 at 4:01pm EDT

This time of year there’s always a lot of talk in Canada that whatever Canadian teams make it into the playoffs, they somehow morph from “The Enemy” to “Canada’s Team.” Sophie Pustil, a writer at the Annenberg Digital News (USC’s School of Journalism) takes issue with the idea she must automatically be on the Canucks or Habs bandwagon:

The Toronto Maple Leafs are my home team and a little part of me dies every time they don’t make the playoffs, as is the case once again this year.

But that in and of itself does not bother me. No, I have made peace with it and am looking forward to next October.

What does bother me are the stories published by Reuters, the National Post and various other Canadian news outlets that seem to be under the impression that all of Canada wants to see the Stanley Cup come “home,” regardless of which city hosts the parade.

This is complete and unmitigated crap.

I can sympathize with this point.

A few years ago when Edmonton rode in and Vancouver was left in the dust, I wasn’t fueled by some patriotic hockey love… I was a raging mad, totally depressed, Canucks fan. (And every bit of hockey hate in my cold, dark heart was dedicated to the dream that Edmonton would end up as playoff roadkill, ASAP!)

This idea that Canadians only want the Cup to ‘come home’ is a bit nuts, and hints of a nationalistic mindset that is, in my opinion, not really accurate. Rather than being patriotic, it seems to imply that our media thinks Canadians are somehow all anti-USA, or something, doesn’t it?

But the oldest rivalry in the National Hockey League aside, I just don’t understand how it still surprises people to find out that Canadians don’t view the NHL as a “Canada vs. The States” thing.

How could we when approximately 54 percent of the players in the league hail from up North? That’s why it always kills me when the Leafs play in Boston and are taunted with chants of “U-S-A!” despite the fact that the Bruins roster contains 70 percent Canadians, not to mention even fewer Americans than Toronto’s.

I will say, I think there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with a Canadian fan taking on the attitude that it would be great to see another Canadian team win—I share those feelings at times, too. I just don’t think it’s accurate to suggest that EVERY Canadian should have that attitude because it’s our duty, or something like that.

Hockey shouldn’t be “Us Against Them” on a nationalistic level, unless we’re talking about international competition.

The only “Us Against Them” that I care about involves the Canucks vs the Blackhawks (and whoever else we might play next, if we’re so lucky). And if the Habs were to advance further than the Canucks, I’d also be cheering them on because I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for them for some reason.

But if Edmonton were “Canada’s Team” again one day? Ugh. I’d rather have a root canal than start waving their flag. (Some hockey wounds never heal!)

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