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article imageOp-Ed: Why are Canadian NHL teams struggling so much to win the cup?

By Tahmid Ahmed     May 7, 2012 in Sports
It has been almost 19 years since a Canadian team last won the Stanley Cup. The Montreal Canadiens were the most recent Canadian team to bring Lord Stanley's trophy on Canadian soil.
Why does this slump seem never ending?
For many fans, the answer is quite obvious: There are more American teams than Canadian teams in the NHL. However this shouldn't be used as an excuse.
Between 1971 and 1993, a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup 14 times. In the 1970-1971 NHL season, there were only 3 Canadian NHL teams (Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks) in the 14 team league. In 1993, there were only 8 Canadian teams out of 24.
Perhaps a typical superstar's unwillingness to sign with a Canadian team might have to do something with this drought. We could take Flyers' Danny Briere for example. In 2007, Briere and the Habs were close on signing a deal. However, the native of Gatineau, Quebec decided to take his talents to Philadelphia. Briere even admitted that the reason why he chose Philly over Montreal was because the privacy of a hockey player is better south of the border than it is here in Canada. As a result, Montreal Canadiens fans boo Briere whenever the Flyers are in town.
On a 2008 interview with George Stroumboulopoulos, NHL bad boy Sean Avery was asked by the host to describe hockey players in a very brief way. The enforcer responded by saying that NHLers are "Very, very simple". Since hockey players, according to Avery, are "very, very simple" human beings, they probably do not enjoy celebrity status as in the case of Danny Briere. When people from an entire country follow your every move on and off the ice, the pressure is much higher than it it would be in a city where the general population didn't care if the NHL suffered a lockout.
On a poll conducted for NHL players by CBC last year , 3 Canadian teams (Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto) finished in the top 6 when it came down to the team they would least prefer to play for. It is no coincidence that the Habs and Leafs have two of the most fanatical fabases, and rightfully (due to their rich respective histories), two of the most critical fanbases in the NHL.
The players might be right; maybe there is too much pressure and celebrity status on Canadian soil for these simple folks. For instance, in 2008, after former Canadiens defenseman Ryan O'Byrne scored in his own net, the crowd at the Bell Center jeered their own player. Former Leafs defensemen Brian McCabe also got his own share of boos due to his poor performance in 2007. Canuck fans also have their fanatics, as riots occurred after Vancouver lost the 2011 finals.
Management, in most cases, cannot be blamed for the failure of Canadian teams when it comes to winning the cup. Since 1993, there were 3 Canadian teams that won the Presidents Trophy for holding the best record in the league. In addition, many Canadian teams have made it to the finals since 1993, but came short when it came to winning the grand prize.The Canucks, for instance, made a nice playoff run in 1994 only to fall short 3-2 against the New York Rangers in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. The Calgary Flames also made it to the finals in 2004, but fell short to the Tampa Bay lightning in 6 games. In 2006, the Oilers lost in a heartbreaking game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes. In 2007, the Sens lost the Stanley Cup finals in 5 games against the Anaheim Ducks, Last year, the Vancouver Canucks were one game shy of winning the Stanley Cup as the Boston Bruins defeated them in 7 games.
It seems as if Canadian NHL teams have the LeBron James syndrome: Playing well for a good chunk of the playoffs then losing in the most important games.
The only probable way to convince the LeBron James' of the NHL to play for Canadian teams is by drafting them. Most elite players of this league will refuse to sign North of the border after their contract is done because there is too much pressure for these "very,very simple" athletes in this country.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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