It’s a rule that spring involves Canada erratically, just a few delicate days adopted by a foot of snow adopted by rain adopted by a day so sizzling you’d swear it was summer time, often adopted by sleet and extra snow. On the day I used to be born in April my mom wanted a heavy winter coat on the way in which to the hospital, and by the point I had arrived within the afternoon it was sizzling sufficient to go to the seaside.
One thing else occurred that very same spring, however in contrast to the unpredictable climate, it has not occurred since. In Might 1967, the Toronto Maple Leafs gained their thirteenth — and final — Stanley Cup. Round this time annually, the town of Toronto will get a little bit twitchy. Sometimes the Raptors present a distraction — however not this 12 months. They’re down three video games in opposition to the 76ers.
The N.H.L. playoffs start Might 2, and as of this writing, the image seems to be like this.
Canadian followers presently have three rooting selections: the Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. The Vancouver Canucks would possibly make it. The Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets won’t.
If the playoffs began as we speak, the Oilers would face the Los Angeles Kings; the Flames would play the Nashville Predators; and the Maple Leafs would play the Tampa Bay Lightning, winner of the final two Stanley Cups.
That doesn’t sound hopeful. However the Leafs have been having fun with good instances, largely due to the American heart Auston Matthews, who has put collectively his finest season but. The Flames have Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. The Oilers characteristic Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
In hockey, it’s most enjoyable to observe the celebrities, particularly through the playoffs. However star gamers haven’t at all times ensured playoff success. The Maple Leafs haven’t gained a championship in 55 years — they usually haven’t even gained a playoff spherical since 2004.
McDavid, for all his otherworldly expertise, has gained solely a single playoff collection (in 2017) and, except for a first-round loss in 2021, the Oilers have missed the playoffs in each different season since shedding within the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006.
The Calgary Flames haven’t gained a playoff collection since 2015.
Cue essentially the most repeated and moped-upon reality round this time of 12 months: The Stanley Cup has not been gained by a Canadian crew since Montreal did so in 1993. It’s all a little bit grim.
Hockey is a regional curiosity. The province of Alberta will divide neatly, and rabidly, between the Oilers and Flames, however Toronto presents an issue for these exterior its sprawling borders. The Leafs, just like the New York Yankees, are simple to like and simple to detest, relying in your postal code and generational loyalties.
One answer is to select a crew primarily based in the US with a implausible Canadian participant, a crew just like the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Sidney Crosby, in his seventeenth season with the crew that drafted him first general in 2005 because the league emerged from a lockout and a canceled 2004-05 season, has quietly been having probably the greatest seasons within the N.H.L.
I spent Crosby’s rookie 12 months in Pittsburgh to observe a child saddled with placing the salary-cap period of hockey on the map. His crew gained solely 22 video games, however he led the Penguins with 102 factors. Greatness was not far-off. Crosby gained his first Stanley Cup in 2009, and two extra in 2016 and 2017. Packed between championships have been quite a few Hart, Conn Smythe, Artwork Ross and Rocket Richard trophies. On Feb. 15, Crosby scored his 500th career goal, changing into solely the second lively participant to succeed in the mark and the forty sixth in N.H.L. historical past.
Just a few days later, I noticed him in Toronto when the Penguins performed the Leafs. It was our first prolonged dialog since his rookie season. Now 34, he was relaxed and reflective, and excited concerning the crew’s playoff possibilities.
“I’ve an important appreciation for having the ability to play so long as I’ve,” he mentioned. “It’s a privilege. Don’t get me fallacious, I need to play lots longer, however the extra you play the extra you perceive that it’s not simple.”
But he nonetheless makes it look easy. Crosby, with 29 targets (9 of them recreation winners) and 52 assists via 65 video games, is having a outstanding season — with out fanfare, which has all gone Alex Ovechkin’s means as he climbs the profession targets record.
Crosby, whose 1.25 points-per-game common edges Ovechkin, continues to show his longevity in a sport that takes an unbelievable bodily toll. He stays the very best 200-foot participant within the recreation, and certainly one of its most inventive playmakers.
Forward of the playoffs, I’ll have far more from my dialog with Crosby, and perception into what has made him such a permanent and dominant participant 17 seasons into his profession.
The New York Instances will present protection of the N.H.L. playoffs, with an early deal with the Rangers-Penguins collection (as the present matchup stands) within the Japanese Convention.
If you’re on the lookout for a bandwagon aside from the Flames, Oilers and Maple Leafs, it could be smart to by no means guess in opposition to Crosby.
I requested him what milestone is subsequent. “A Stanley Cup,” he mentioned.
This week’s Trans Canada part was compiled by Vjosa Isai.
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A local of Ancaster, Ontario, Shawna Richer lives in Toronto and is an assistant sports activities editor for The New York Instances. She has spent greater than 25 years as a sports activities journalist in Canada and is the writer of “The Child: A Season With Sidney Crosby and the New N.H.L.” Observe her on Twitter at @richershawna.
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