Stanley Cup Playoffs: Which Canadian team will end the drought?

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Published on Friday, April 19, 2024 at 4:34 p.m. EDT

Last updated on Friday, April 19, 2024 at 4:34 p.m. EDT

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

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

“It was just a great experience,” said Morrissey, now a star defenseman for the Winnipeg Jets. “Live and die with every victory and every defeat. »

Hockey fans across Canada are once again preparing to experience this annual thrill and torment.

The Jets, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs make up the north-border contingent set to launch into the 16-team race for the sport's silver chalice when the playoffs open SATURDAY.

Morrisey was far too young to reach Calgary's electric “Red Mile” after the games 20 years ago, but he could feel the pulsating energy of his hometown as the Flames progressed through three grueling rounds until to the final.

“That's the best thing about Canadian teams doing well in the playoffs… it means so much,” he added. “A special time of year. The further you go, the more the excitement increases. This can really mean a flight to the cities.

“I know as a kid it meant an awful lot to me.”

Canada's well-documented Cup drought dates back to Montreal's 1993 triumph. The Canucks (twice), Flames, Oilers, Canadiens and Ottawa Senators have all made the final since then, but haven't been there yet. not arrived.

The four Canadian clubs participating in this year's post-season tournament represent the largest number of players qualified in a normal campaign since 2017.

Vancouver defenseman Carson Soucy, who grew up southeast of Edmonton in Irma, Alta., remembers the Oilers' march to the 2006 final.

“That’s when they took out the flags on the car windows,” he said. “They were everywhere…they were popular that year.”

He added that it would be “insane” to take the Cup back through customs.

“It would be crazy, honestly, just the support, I think, from all of Canada – maybe plus a few rival teams,” Soucy said. “I think Canadians, in general, would be so excited to have a Canadian team back.”

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

“There's really nothing like playoff hockey (in Canada),” said the New Westminster, B.C., product. “Everyone becomes friends.”

Vancouver defender Noah Juulsen, who grew up in Abbotsford, British Columbia, also enjoyed the 2011 race as a fan, but remembers the black eye that followed.

“The riot,” he said. “It’s not the best memory you wanted, but it’s a memory.”

Leafs defenseman Simon Benoit, who grew up in the Montreal suburb of Laval, remembers watching his Canadiens make a few playoff appearances when he was a kid.

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

Edmonton Oilers center Adam Henrique is set to play his first playoff series at home after reaching the 2018 final with the New Jersey Devils.

“You see the passion in the fans,” said the Brantford, Ont., native. “I’ve definitely watched it in the past, and even on TV you can see it and feel that emotion.”

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

“It’s going to be one hell of a party,” he said. “You could be Team Canada after this Stanley Cup. There is a lot at stake for the Canadian teams participating. As a Canadian, this could be huge.

“That would be the pinnacle, wouldn’t it?” »

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

“I remember being absolutely devastated,” he said.

But there were plenty of good moments along the way.

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

The glow of a Cup victory would last even longer.

-With files from Judy Owen in Winnipeg, Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver and Steven Sandor in Edmonton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2024.

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