The Vancouver Canucks are on the cusp of winning the greatest prize in hockey: the Stanley Cup.
Since their run for the cup began back in April, there has been a ton of talk about how they are "Canada's team" and how the Stanley Cup "needs to come back to Canada where it belongs".
This talk has been intensified as the Canucks have drawn closer and closer to victory and more and more people seem to buying into it.
I'm not one of those people.
The 2010 Olympics had tangible effects in Canada. I just don't get the same sensation with a Canadian franchise in the Stanley Cup Finals, one win away from being crowned champions.
From my perspective, a Canucks Stanley Cup victory would mean very little, if anything, for most Canadians, who are completely impartial to the Vancouver Canucks franchise.
I refute this notion that the Canucks are "Canada's team" and that the whole nation is cheering for them. The simple fact is that there is no empirical evidence to suggest that that the rest of Canada is cheering for the Canucks.
There have been polls done by CBC that indicate a significant percentage of Canadian hockey fans are rooting for the Canucks in some way, shape or form. But my question is this: exactly how accurate are these polls?
What are the sample sizes? Does it measure how much Canadians actually have invested in the Canucks? Does it take other factors into consideration, such as a large percentage of Leafs or Habs fans that are cheering for the Canucks simply because they're playing a divisional rival?
At best, I think we can say a decent percentage of Canadians are quietly rooting for the Canucks, but actually have very little emotionally invested in them winning.
If the Canucks do win the Stanley Cup on Wednesday, will we see huge mobs of people in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and other cities in the streets celebrating, wearing Canucks colors?
I think its safe to assume that Canada's investment in the Canucks falls somewhere between mild content and utter apathy.
My second point, and I've said this many times, is regarding the benefits Canada actually receives from a Canucks Stanley Cup victory.
How exactly do the rest of Canadians obtain satisfaction from the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup? Will Canadians come in flocks to see the cup in Vancouver if they win? Canucks fans in other provinces probably, but Leafs fans? Habs fans? Flames fans? Oilers fans? Highly unlikely, even though the cup is "back in Canada".
This is because, as hockey fans, people in other cities have more loyalty to their own respective teams than they do to any sort of patriotic notions of the cup returning to Canada. Leafs fans are Leafs fans, Habs fans are Habs fans and so on. I don't see lifelong fans putting aside their affiliations for a couple weeks to become passionate fans of another Canadian franchise.
A Canucks Stanley Cup victory would benefit the Canucks organization and their fans alone. Very few others. Some Canadians might enjoy the idea of the cup being back in a Canadian city, but realistically how much substance is that? Other fans haven't invested their life and money into the Canucks, so why do they care?
Its Canucks fans that truly get to enjoy it firsthand. And they should. They've made the investment in them, emotionally and financially. Its their team's victory in their their city. Why should the rest of Canada try and infringe upon that and claim it as a Canadian victory? Canucks fans will celebrate when their team wins, other Canadian fans will celebrate when their team wins. That's how hockey, and all of professional sports works.
As a Canadian, I want Canada to have success in the hockey world. But here's an alternative way of looking at it: Canadians, as hockey fans, should take more pride when Canadian players opposed to Canadian teams win the Stanley Cup.
All Canadians want to see the cup in Canada. But the fact is over 50% of the NHL is Canadian, so realistically the cup comes back to Canada every year, and in an even better way. Canadian players bring it to their hometown and share it with friends, family and their community.
This happens across the country, so therefore Canadian players winning the cup is more beneficial for Canada and Canadian hockey opposed to a single Canadian team winning the cup. In my opinion, this is what Canadian hockey fans should really care about, because its something we can all share and take pride in.
So according to this logic, it would be better for an all-Canadian team located in the US to win the cup than an all-foreign team located in Canada. Its more of a Canadian victory.
While we're on the topic, what exactly makes a team "Canadian"? Is it a team full of Canadian players or a team that is simply located in Canada?
If Canadian players make a team Canadian, then the Bruins are more Canadian than the Canucks (16 Canadian Bruins versus 12 Canadian Canucks). I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.
Of course the upside to a Canadian team winning the cup is that Canadian fans get to celebrate it. But the problem is that even if all of British Columbia were Canucks fans, that's only 4.5 million Canadians that get some kind of tangible satisfaction from the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup.
If we're talking about Canada as a nation benefiting, then there's more happiness to be found from a team with a majority of Canadian players winning the cup. At least then the cup makes more trips to Canada and gets shared at a local level.
For my final point, I don't like how people use the argument "the cup belongs in Canada". People like to point out that the Stanley Cup has found itself in some hockey wastelands over the past decade (Tampa Bay, Carolina, Anaheim) and deserves to come back to Canada where it will be fully appreciated.
But have we forgotten who the key players in those victories were?
Canadian players like Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, Dave Andreychuk, Eric Staal, Rod Brind'Amour, Cam Ward, Scott Neidermayer, Chris Pronger, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, along with plenty of others.
The implication here is that great, respectable, hard-working Canadian players shouldn't win the Stanley Cup simply if they're on an American team in a market where hockey is an afterthought. Instead, the cup only belongs to team located in Canada, so we can greedily keep its glory to ourselves.
I have a couple problems with this way of thinking.
First, Canada should care about all the players it produces, regardless of where they play.
Second, Canada should care about the game of hockey, regardless of where its played.
Third, those teams winning those cups helped them become stronger hockey markets. Compared to some other Southern US teams, those three are definite standouts. That's good for the NHL and the game of hockey.
Regardless of where a team is located, in the spirit of competition, the best should win. The Stanley Cup belongs to the best team in the National Hockey League, regardless if that team is located in Canada or the US. Simply because we invented the sport, doesn't entitle us to a monopoly on its ultimate prize.
There are plenty of American cities that love the sport of hockey just as much as Canadians. You don't think Boston will go crazy if the Bruins win the cup on Wednesday? We all remember how hard Chicago and Pittsburgh partied when they won their cups and Detroit isn't called Hockeytown for no reason.
Now don't get me wrong. As a Canadian, I will be happy for Canadian, specifically Vancouver hockey fans if the Canucks win the Stanley Cup. It will have some meaning to Canada, considering the cup hasn't been won by a Canadian franchise in 18 years. It will obviously be very special for Canucks fans.
But lets not deceive ourselves here. Will a Canucks Stanley Cup victory do anything for Canada and Canadian hockey in general? My guess is no. I think I've made my position very clear that supporting Canadian players, opposed to Canadian teams, is better for Canada and has more meaning.
So now I have to ask: do Canadians really care whether or not the Canucks win the Stanley Cup?
Unless I see reactions similar to the Olympic Gold medal victory in cities across Canada if the Canucks win the Stanley Cup, I will not be convinced that Canadians were ever fully, passionately, unconditionally behind the Canucks as much as the media portrayed them to be.
But I think an even more valid question would be: should Canadians care whether or not the Canucks win the Stanley Cup? Will it be better for Canadian hockey?
I'll leave that one up to you.