Yesterday was special day for two reasons, it was Valentine’s day and it was Hockey Day in Canada. This is the day where Canadians come together to watch hockey and to participate in the many activities involving our national sport across our great nation. Yesterday, all seven Canadian NHL teams were in action with six of those teams facing each other. The exception this year is the Winnipeg Jets, who are in Detroit to face the Red Wings. In other games, Ottawa hosted Edmonton, Toronto visited Montreal and in the night game Vancouver was in Calgary to face the Flames. For Canadians, watching hockey on Saturday night is synonymous with Americans watching NFL football on Sundays. It’s tradition.
My favorite part of hockey day in Canada, besides watching my three favorite Canadian NHL teams, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver, is hearing some of the wonderful stories CBC produces to broadcast. These stories profile the exceptional people in hockey who have sacrificed so much to play the game of hockey or to help make it happen for others. Here is an example
As a side note, I was born and raised in the Lower Mainland in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver. We don’t get enough snow or sustained freezing temperatures so I never experienced skating on an outdoor rink. However, I did attend the 2014 Heritage classic at BC Place stadium where the Canucks hosted the Senators. It was OK, but BC Place is a football and soccer stadium. It is not built to host hockey games. As such, I was forced to watch the action on the jumbo-tron
The State of the Canadian NHL teams
Despite the Canadian dollar being weak at the moment, Canadian franchises are thriving. Even in Edmonton and Vancouver, where tickets can be bought dirt cheap, fans continue to fill the stadiums. The situation is not nearly as dire as it was in the mid 90’s when Quebec City and Winnipeg were relocated to Colorado and Phoenix (Arizona now) respectfully.
In terms of being competitive, the Canadian franchises are doing well as a whole. Four of the seven Canadian teams have a very good chance of making the playoffs in April (Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary). Edmonton and Ottawa will definitely be on the outside looking in and Toronto requires a strong finish to nab one of the two wildcard spots in the East, but they just started clearing house.
A Canadian-based team has not won a Stanley cup since 1993 when your Montreal Canadiens hoisted the trophy. At the moment, Montreal likely represents Canada’s best hope of winning the Stanley cup, but by no means will it be an easy task
Every year Canada participates in international hockey tournaments, including the World Junior hockey tournament, which brings together the best 19 and under hockey players in the world and the Spengler Cup, which is comprised of players playing in the European leagues. Canada always has and always will be able to put together teams that are medal favorites. This is a testament to the fantastic coaches we have and the wonderful hockey programs kids can enroll in. A medal is less of a guarantee on the larger international ice surfaces as, other than the Spengler Cup, players that play in these tournaments played in the smaller rinks of North America the entire hockey season. Still, one can never count a Canadian hockey team out.
The women’s game has a little less parity. The two North American teams, Canada and USA dominate the tournaments and the European franchises get routed when they play Canada or USA. It is to the point where the IOC is considering removing women’s hockey as an Olympic sport because only Canada and USA have ever competed for a gold medal. No other country has ever come close.
I would like to give a shout-out to all hockey parents reading this blog. Thank you for putting in the countless hours to allow your son or daughter to play hockey.
So enjoy the games this weekend Habs fans and Go Habs Go
A Habs fan blogging from BC