Maple Leafs, Jets, Oilers and Canucks carry Canada’s Stanley Cup hopes with drought now at 30 years

From left to right, Winnipeg Jets center Gabriel Vilardi, center Morgan Barron and defenseman Logan Stanley confer in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche, Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (David Zalubowski, Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Josh Morrissey remembers the city coming to life before his eyes.

A nine-year-old Flames fan in the spring of 2004, he was captivated by every Jarome Iginla chance and Miikka Kiprusoff save during Calgary’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

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“It was just an awesome experience,” said Morrissey, now a star defenseman for the Winnipeg Jets. “Living and dying on every win and loss.”

Hockey fans across Canada are once again preparing for the annual thrill and torment that arrives with the playoffs. The Jets, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs are in the 16-team field that will open play on Saturday.

Morrisey remembers the energy in his hometown as the Flames advanced through three grueling rounds to the final.

“That’s the best part about Canadian teams doing well in the playoffs … it means so much,” he told The Canadian Press. “A special time of the year. The longer you go, the more that excitement ramps up. It can really mean a lot to the cities. I know as a kid, it meant a ton to me.”

Canada’s Cup drought dates to Montreal’s triumph in 1993, an agonizingly long time for fans in the nation that loves hockey more than any other. The Canucks (twice), Flames, Oilers, Canadiens and Ottawa Senators have all made it to the final since only to fall short. The four Canadian clubs in this year’s bracket are the most to make the cut in a normal campaign since 2017.

Vancouver defenseman Carson Soucy, who grew up near Edmonton, remembers the Oilers’ march to the 2006 final.

“That was when they came out with the car window flags,” he said. “They were everywhere … those were popular that year.”

Jets defenseman Brenden Dillon grew up a Canucks fan and was in the city when the team lost to Boston in Game 7 of the 2011 final.

“There really is nothing like playoff hockey (in Canada),” he said. “Everyone bonds together.”

Maple Leafs defenseman Simon Benoit, who grew up in suburban Montreal, recalls watching the Canadiens go on a couple playoff runs when he was a kid.

“Having a chance here to play for that Cup, it’s pretty special,” he said of this opportunity with Toronto. “I’m pretty excited about it. When the time comes, I’ll be ready.”

Canucks rcoach Rick Tocchet won the Cup as a player with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992. He said the team that brings hockey’s grail home will have bragging rights for a long time.

“It’s going to be a hell of a party,” he said. “You might be Canada’s team after that Stanley Cup. There’s a lot at stake for the Canadian teams that are in. As a Canadian, it could be huge. That would be the ultimate, right?”

Like so many Canadian fans over the last 30 years, Morrissey was bitterly disappointed when the Flames lost Game 7 to the Tampa Bay Lightning two decades ago.

“I remember being just absolutely devastated,” he said.

But there were plenty of good times along the way.

“My friends and I from that era still talk about some of the games,” Morrissey continued. “It lives on for a long time.”

The glow of a Cup victory would last even longer.



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