What is Wrong with Canada’s NHL Teams?


Not since 1993 has a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup.  It just does not seem right does it?  It looks like the drought will continue this season as only one of the seven Canadian teams in the NHL is poised to make the playoffs, that being the Montreal Canadiens.  Since the Holy Grail was raised by the Canadiens, all of the remainder of Canada teams have made it to the Finals (save Toronto) with the Vancouver Canucks twice (1994 and 2011), the Calgary Flames (2004) and the Edmonton Oilers (2006) all taking it to seven games.  It almost seems like there is a curse because quite frankly the Canucks should have won in 2011, the Oilers should have won in 2006 and the Flames should have won in 2004 as those teams were firing on all cylinders and it could be argued that some questionable calls or unexplained circumstances lead to the US based teams winning the Cup those years.

So just why are the Canadian teams struggling so much?  The Hockey Fanatic looks at seven reasons the seven Canadian teams are struggling to win the Stanley Cup.

NHL Teams in Canada

7 Reasons Why the 7 Canadian Teams are Struggling to Win the Stanley Cup

    1. US Expansion – arguably the number one reason is that the NHL has expanded into a number of markets in the US.  Throughout most of the 80’s and into the early 90’s one third of the NHL’s teams were based in Canada.  The odds were obviously better for a Canadian team to make it deep into the playoffs back then.  Many fans will debate the fact that the talent pool in the NHL has been watered down as well due to NHL expansion where the rich get richer and the poor get… well you know where this story goes.
    2. NHL Players Desire to play in “hot” markets – pun intended, it is no secret that hockey players and in many examples their girlfriends or wives prefer to live in a warmer climate.  As recent as last month when Roberto Luongo was traded from Vancouver back to Florida (where he met his wife) there are numerous examples of players not willing to waive a trade to destinations such as Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary or even Vancouver.  Of course Luongo’s case was a little different but it is no secret that Florida was #1 on his list of preferred trade destinations.  I bet if we polled the players who in fact have special trade clauses or lists of teams that they would not like to be traded to that list would almost always include a couple of Canadian cities. (Which is quite surprising considering the great country that Canada is…).  The fact is that in Canada, the weather is colder, winter is longer, the taxes are higher and the cities are smaller so player are less conspicuous in Canadian markets.  Rumors persist that one of the reasons why Chris Pronger requested a trade from Edmonton was because his wife did not like the city.  While I’m not sure what the exact story is, the fact remains that the Canadian NHL teams are at a disadvantage when it comes to signing free agents or attracting big names in trades due to their location.
    3. The Canadian $$$ – while not as much as an issue as in the nineties when the drought started, the lower Canadian dollar has worked against the Canadian teams in being able to attract and more importantly keep talent north of the border.  The Edmonton Oilers come to mind in reviewing all of the great players they lost in the nineties.  They probably should have won another couple of Cups in the early ‘90s but the team was dismantled and was unable to remain competitive.
    4. Relocation – Both the Quebec Nordiques and the original Winnipeg Jets relocated in the nineties moving to Denver (Colorado) and Phoenix.  In the case of the Nordiques they went on to win the Stanley Cup the year after they moved from Quebec to Denver beating the Florida Panthers four games to zero to hoist the Cup in 1996.  Talk about adding insult to injury.
    5. Pressure – you would think that professional athletes would be better able to handle the pressures of playing their sport.  The fact is that regardless of what Canadian market you are in as a player or coach you are under a microscope and there is most certainly extra pressure on the players to perform in these cities.  Jeez how bad do Toronto Maple Leafs want their team to win the Stanley Cup?  Or how about the Vancouver Canucks or Winnipeg Jets?  Or what about storied franchises of the Montreal Canadiens or Edmonton Oilers?  Add to the mix the Ottawa Senators and you have a lot of fans of Canadian teams who are thirsty for a win and a sip out of the Stanley Cup.  Players are competitive and they want to win, but there is some extra pressure to perform in the Canadian markets.
    6. The League Itself – do you think the NHL as a League would be happy if year in year out a Canadian team was winning the Stanley Cup?  Seriously, with the large TV deals and market potential of the US based teams the League was obviously trying to grow the sport throughout the US.  Expansion to sunbelt areas was no coincidence.  While Wayne Gretzky is credited in growing the game in the US, it was really the mastermind of the likes of Gary Bettman and Bruce McNall and certain members of the Board of Governors who wanted to expand into US markets.  Personality conflicts aside it is np coincidence that the League did not want to sell a franchise to Canadian billionaire (at the time)  Jim Balsillie because he was quite vocal that he wanted to move a team to Canada.   On three occasions he was denied attempts to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Nashville Predators and the Phoenix Coyotes.  Gary Bettman works for the owners and there is a somewhat old gentleman’s club where the billionaire owners call the shots and for the most part treat their team as a business (which they should) but the buck stops with the owners and Gary Bettman.  He has grown League revenues albeit through multiple work stoppages.  (The NHL is the only professional sports league to miss a complete season due to labor unrest).  Call it a conspiracy theory but the League has made a number of changes that have worked against the Canadian teams when it comes to being able to win the Stanley Cup.  Does anyone remember the fact that the League gave an extra day off between games six and seven?  Or the additional day off between games one and two?  The Vancouver Canucks had momentum in both cases which was stalled by these small facts.  The Canucks were flying high after a game 6 win of 4-1.
    7. The Canadian Curse – While I’m not a believer in curses, many hockey players are superstitious.  Hockey fans as well.   In 2004 when the Flames were taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning, there were some questionable calls that resulted in power-plays for the Lightning who had a pretty lethal power-play,  and scored on a few of these chances.  I’m not suggesting that the League had anything to do with it but for whatever reason strange things happen when a Canadian team has been involved in the Finals as of late.  Luongo’s commentary on the Bruins Tim Thomas during the 2011 Finals seemed to be the turning point.  Dwayne Roloson of the Oilers getting hurt in game one of the Finals vs. the Hurricanes turned the tide for that game and the entire series.   In game one, Carolina tied the biggest comeback in Stanley Cup Finals history, overcoming a three-goal deficit to win, 5–4.  In the third period of this game, Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson suffered a series-ending knee injury in a collision and was replaced with backup Ty Conklin. With 32 seconds to go in regulation, Conklin misplayed the puck behind his own net, and it deflected off Jason Smith’s stick to the front of the empty net where Rod Brind’ Amour of the Canes buried it. I still lose sleep over this.

It has been way too long of a drought for long suffering fans of Canadian NHL teams. It does not look that the drought will be ended anytime soon.  Fans of the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks have had to endure teams such as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars hoist the Stanley Cup.  It sure is sad that no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup in over twenty years.  Wow, just wow.

Tags: ,
Posted in NHL by The Hockey Fan. No Comments

The Fun of Watching Hockey Games


Keep Calm Watch HockeyBeing a die hard hockey fan means that there are certain elements that one experiences when watching hockey games.  A number of hockey players are superstitious and hockey fans can be just as superstitious.  That is part of the fun of watching hockey whether you are live at a game, at a sports bar or from the comfort of your home.  Ever wonder why hockey fans enjoy watching hockey games?  The Hockey Fanatic has come up with twenty reasons why its fun to watch hockey.

Ever ask your husband or your boyfriend why they love to watch hockey (no we are not suggesting that only men watch hockey…)  There are just so many great things that make watching hockey fun.  Whether it is the trade deadline, opening week of the season or the playoffs watching hockey is a heralded past time throughout the world but especially here in Canada.

20 Reasons Why Its Fun to Watch Hockey

  1. Hockey is the fastest sport on ice – hockey is a fast sport and there is nothing like end to end action to get hockey fans up out of their seats.  Watching the speed of the players as they skate back and fourth, make line changes on the fly is something to behold.
  2. Hockey has cool rules – there are a lot of rules in hockey.  Where else can a team play one or even two players short (due to penalties) giving the other team an opportunity to score a powerplay goal?  What about icing and having the faceoff go into the offensive zone?  Of course there are some lameo-O rules, but there are a number of unique rules in the game that makes it fun to watch.
  3. Hockey Sticks – Hockey is the only team sport that allows all active players to use a piece of equipment to engage in the play.  In baseball you have batters hitting one at a time, but in hockey all players have a stick in hand which can be used to score, save, poke check, cross check or take a slapshot with.
  4. Team Rivalries – as in any sport, hockey has its share of rivalries.  Like the Battle of Alberta or the New York vs New York matchup.  How about Philly vs the Pens?  Come playoff times rivalries heat up making it even more fun to watch.
  5. Great Play by Play – at least in Canada, the play by play of NHL and CHL games is exceptional.  TSN have some great and veteran hockey announcers and some of the best in the biz which makes it very entertaining to watch hockey games.
  6. Hockey is a contact sport – if you get the chance to attend a live hockey game and get to sit up close to the glass you will know what we mean.  There is a certain element of toughness with the game.
  7. Outdoor Games are fun – hockey originated outside in frigid temperatures on lakes and ponds.  The NHL’s Winter Classic and stadium series have proven that hockey fans love out door games.  It’s an experience like no other.
  8. Hockey Arenas have great atmospheres – the smell of popcorn or hot chocolate.  Ice girls, mascots, 50/50 draws, you cannot beat attending a hockey game whether it is in small town Saskatchewan or in the heart of New York city.
  9. Hockey has a great history – whether you are a Toronto Maple Leafs Fans, Montreal Canadiens fan or a fan of the Ottawa 67s, the history of the game of hockey is rich and epic.
  10. Hockey is a skilled game – you have to skate, shoot, check and skate some more to be able to play the game.  Those lucky enough to play in semi-pro and pro leagues are some of the best athletes in the world.
  11. Hockey players are classy – sure there are a few bad apples, but for the most part, hockey players are classy and give great interviews and are very personable and respectful of fans.
  12. Hockey Fights – ok we need to state clearly that we do not condone fighting in hockey, in fact the time may come to remove fighting from the game, but have you seen how the crows reacts to a classic hockey tilt?  The fans get excited, the players get pumped up and the level of excitement gets amped up.
    Here’s a peek at the top hockey fights of all-time courtesy of TSN via YouTube )
  13. Penalty Shots – where else can you find a good ol’ fashioned one on one, mano o mano play in a team sport?  Penalty shots make watching hockey games even more exciting.  The penalty shot is often referred to the most exciting play in all of hockey, maybe in all of sports, especially if it is in Overtime… and speaking of OT…
  14. Sudden Death Overtime – are you kidding me?  There is no nail biting in hockey, but there is nail biting during sudden death overtime as the next goal wins.  Especially in the playoffs as OT periods can sometime go three or four periods before a winning goal is scored.  That’s pretty exciting especially if your team scores the winner.
  15. You get to wear your teams’ jersey and colors – there are some cool jerseys in hockey.  Watching hockey allows you to throw on your teams colors and cheer on your team.
  16. Best of Seven Playoff series – the first team to win four games advances or wins the Stanley Cup.  How cool is that?
  17. Shootouts – players try some pretty crazy moves in the shootout.  Love them or hate them, shootouts can lift the fans out of their seats.
  18. Playoff Races – with 16 of the league’s teams entering the post season (we are speaking of the NHL here), the playoff races heat up in the final few weeks of the season and often come down to the final week or final day of the season which makes for some great scoreboard watching.
  19. The Stanley Cup – by far the coolest trophy in all of sports.  The quest for the Holy Grail ends with the captain of the winning team hoisting the Stanley Cup overhead and passing it to his teammates after a long hard battle of winning 16 games over a two month battle for hockey supremacy.
  20. Parity – while I personally long for the return of the dynasties, there is parity in the NHL like never before.  On any given night any of the 30 NHL teams can beat the others.  Take the 2006 Stanley Cup final, a seven game series between the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers with the Hurricanes prevailing.  Neither team was expected to get out of the first round that season.  Fans were excited for the Cinderella run of both teams.

Watching hockey is fun, but you know what is even better?  Playing hockey.  You are never too old to start.  Whether it is road hockey, ball hockey, ice hockey or other give it a try, you too may just become a hockey fan.

Posted in Hockey Fans by The Hockey Fan. No Comments

Top 100 NHL Players 2014


As the NHL season enters its final month, The Hockey Fanatic decided to share our list of who we feel are the top 100 NHL players this season.  The methodology for making this list?  Well performance obviously, as well as overall importance the the league and to their respective teams.  Our list includes players who consistently move us hockey fans out of our seats with exciting plays or big hits or amazing saves.  These are the top 100 players that the NHL should be marketing and be promoting in their advertising spots.

Top 100 NHL Players 2014

POS NAME Team
C Sidney Crosby PIT
C Ryan Getzlaf ANA
C Phil Kessel TOR
D Erik Karlsson OTT
D Duncan Keith CHI
L Alex Ovechkin WSH
G Ben Bishop TB
D Shea Weber NAS
G Tuukka Rask BOS
C John Tavares NYI
R Corey Perry ANA
R Patrick Kane CHI
C Evgeni Malkin PIT
R Claude Giroux PHI
C Tyler Seguin DAL
G Carey Price MTL
C Joe Pavelski SJ
G Jonas Hiller ANA
R Patrick Sharp CHI
G Roberto Luongo FLA
L Jamie Benn DAL
C Matt Duchene COL
D P.K. Subban MTL
D Alex Pietrangelo STL
G Marc-Andre Fleury PIT
D Drew Doughty LA
G Antti Niemi SJ
G Semyon Varlamov COL
R Kyle Okposo NYI
C Nicklas Backstrom WSH
C Joe Thornton SJ
C Jonathan Toews CHI
L Taylor Hall EDM
L Chris Kunitz PIT
C Patrick Marleau SJ
R Martin St. Louis NYR
C David Krejci BOS
R Jaromir Jagr NJ
D Kevin Shattenkirk STL
C Anze Kopitar LA
L James van Riemsdyk TOR
L Gabriel Landeskog COL
C Ryan O’Reilly COL
C Nathan MacKinnon COL
D Keith Yandle PHX
D Niklas Kronwall DET
C Steven Stamkos TB
D Ryan Suter MIN
R Marian Hossa CHI
C Jason Spezza OTT
R Blake Wheeler WPG
G Steve Mason PHI
L Thomas Vanek MTL
C Bryan Little WPG
L Alexander Steen STL
C T.J. Oshie STL
L James Neal PIT
D Victor Hedman TB
D Dustin Byfuglien WPG
C Ryan Johansen CLB
R Jarome Iginla BOS
L Henrik Zetterberg DET
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson PHX
D Cam Fowler ANA
C Eric Staal CAR
C Jordan Eberle EDM
C Paul Stastny COL
C Jaden Schwartz STL
D Brent Seabrook CHI
D James Wisniewski CLB
D Matt Niskanen PIT
D Jay Bouwmeester STL
L Andrew Ladd WPG
L Milan Lucic BOS
C Kyle Turris OTT
R Wayne Simmonds PHI
D Andrej Sekera CAR
D Andrei Markov MTL
D Torey Krug BOS
C Brad Richards NYR
L Jussi Jokinen PIT
R David Backes STL
R Bobby Ryan OTT
R Jakub Voracek PHI
C Frans Nielsen NYI
L David Perron EDM
R Reilly Smith BOS
C Mike Ribeiro PHX
L Max Pacioretty MTL
C Nazem Kadri TOR
C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins EDM
L Brandon Saad CHI
L Patrik Elias NJ
C Valtteri Filppula TB
C Jeff Skinner CAR
C Jeff Carter LA
C Patrice Bergeron BOS
L Scott Hartnell PHI
L Zach Parise MIN
C Ryan Kesler VAN

 

Posted in Hockey Lists NHL by The Hockey Fan. No Comments

Top 10 Hockey Moments from Winter Olympics – Round Robin


Well the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia are into week two and mens and womens hockey is in full swing.  There have been some exciting games thus far and The Hockey Fanatic is counting down the top ten moments in Olympics hockey from round robin play of the 2014 Sochi Games.

Top 10 Hockey Moments from Winter Olympics – Round Robin

  1. USA vs Russia in Mens Hockey – or should we say TJ Oshie vs Alex Kovalchuk?  With the United States and Russia tied after regulation and overtime, the two rivals went to a lengthily shootout after a tightly-contested preliminary game, where the St. Louis Blues centre took six shots, scoring four times, to lead his team to a 3-2 victory.  Over on Twitter the hastag #TJSochi became an instant hit.
  2. Canada vs USA in Womens Hockey – ah yes another great game between the two rivals.  This was in fact one of the best games that we have seen in years period.  Canada had a strong third period in which they trailed one nothing to start the third period.  The Canadian squad coached by Kevin Dineen put together a tremendous final 20 minutes, scoring three goals while outshooting the favoured American side 12-3 on their way to a 3-2 win.  This game had it all and in the end Canada’s passion shone through.  We cannot wait to see more of this in the medal round.
  3. Canada defeats Finland in OT – on an OT winner from Canada by Drew Doughty allowed Canada to get the victory over a very poised Finnish team.  The 2-1 victory for Canada seems them ranked third overall as they move into the medal round.
  4. Japanese Women’s Hockey Team Enjoying the Sochi Games with a big game vs. Russia – Earlier this week the womens Japanese hockey team played Russia giving the Russians a bit of a scare.  With Russia leading 1-0 early in the third period, Japan’s Ayaka Toko floated a fluttering knucklepuck toward the net. Bobbing and weaving over and around teammates and Russian opponents, the puck found its way between goaltender Anna Prugova’s glove and pads. The goal was the first Olympic goal from a Japanese player in 16 years. To celebrate the monumental feat, the players engaged in hockey hugs before circling up and bowing in unison. Russia went on to win 2-1.  It’s the second time the Japanese squad has qualified for the Olympics – the first was when they hosted the 1998 Nagano Games.
  5. Slovenia gets first Olympic hockey win over Slovakia -Slovenia beat Slovakia 3-1 in a massive upset.  Slovenia earned a spot in the Sochi Games by beating Belarus, Ukraine and Denmark in last year’s qualification tournament.  The hockey team is ranked 17th in the world from a nation with fewer than 2 million people, seven hockey rinks and only one professional team. Scoring for Slovenia was Rok Ticar who broke a scoreless tie 3:23 into the final period. Teammate Tomaz Razingar scored midway through the third and Anze Kopitar, the team’s only NHL player had a goal 23 seconds later.
  6. Goaltender Jan Laco of Slovakia’s great performance vs Team Russia – the Slovakian goaltender turned aside everything he saw with the exception of shootout goal from Alexander Kovalchuk.  A brilliant efforts as Laco stopped 36 Russian shots.
  7. Sweden upsets Finland in Women’s Hockey – technically this was not a round robin game as the Swedes upset the Finns in the Women’s quarterfinal game.  This game was a nasty affair as these two teams definitely do not like each other.  Sweden won the game 4-2 and will now meet the US in the semi-finals.
  8. Phil Kessel nets a hat-trick as the US defeats Slovenia by a score of 5-1.  Team USA complete the round robin with a 3-0 record having outscored their opponents 15-4.
  9. Austria claims it first Olympic win in 12 years in win over Norway – the Austrians beat Norway 3-1 to earn their first win at the Olympic games in on over a decade.  Michael Grabner scored twice for the Austians in the win.
  10. Team USA opens their Olympic tournament with a 7-1 win over Slovakia – Team US is focused on Gold and they just might take it at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.  The team has a lot of firepower and solid goaltending.  Should they make it to the final, they will be a formidable foe.  Phil Kessel is on fire and continue to pile up the points.  Team USA is looking strong after round robin play.

Next up is the elimination round.  Is Russia playing possum?  We will have to wait and see as the next round of mens hockey begins this week. The elimination round for the Men’s side looks like this:

2014 Sochi Mens Hockey

Image:  Courtesy of the Globe and Mail

On the womens side a Gold medal rematch between Canada and the US is expected.  Should be another great game. #CANvsUSA

Follow us on Twitter @hockeyfanatics

Tags: , ,
Posted in Fans by The Hockey Fan. No Comments

Thoughts on the NHL Playoff Format


This season marks the first with the new divisions and as a result the playoff is a little different with wild cards.  Currently in the 30 team NHL the East has 16 teams with 14 teams in the West.  A little lopsided for the playoff seeds right?  Well the NHL has worked towards parity which I tend to disagree with.  I miss the days of the dynasty and while I don’t want to see the same four or five teams always winning the Stanley Cup, it would be cool to see some consecutive Cup wins.

So it will be interesting to see how the NHL playoff format works this year.  I personally have a recommendation for the playoff format.  It is something that the NHL used to do when it was a twenty-one team league back in the ’80′s.  At the end of the regular season, the top 16 teams would make the NHL playoffs regardless of division/conference with the seeds as follows:

#1 vs. #16

#2 vs #15

#3 vs. #14

#4 vs. #13

#5 vs. #12

#6 vs. #11

#7 vs. #10

#8 vs #9.

That way any given team might have the opportunity of playing against any other team in the playoffs.  Yes there are some cons to this method in terms of potential travel or playoff rivalries (although new rivalries could be developed).  So based on today’s standings (yes not all the teams have played the same amount of games at this point, but this is only for illustration purposes) if the playoffs started today, the match-ups would be as follows:

Anaheim vs. Carolina

Chicago vs. Phoenix

St. Louis vs. NY Rangers

Pittsburgh vs. Montreal

San Jose vs. Toronto

Colorado vs. Minnesota

Boston vs. Vancouver

Tampa Bay vs Los Angeles

Are you kidding me?  There are some great match-ups.  The Bruins and Canucks in the opening round?  Excelsior.  San Jose vs. Toronto?  The Lightning vs the Kings.  This would provide some great hockey.  It would also make the regular season seeding mean more as well.  Especially if you were one of the last couple of playoff seeds.  A few extra wins could mean drawing an “easier” opponent in the first round.

Hockey fans would love it.  Players would love it.  Probably the only ones who wouldn’t love it would be the League itself and the owners.  Unfortunately those are the two main components that would need to make this come true.  Well one could dream can they?

Posted in NHL by The Hockey Fan. No Comments