From 2004 to 2007, three different Canadian teams made it to the Stanley Cup finals–and lost. Ditto for 2011, when the Vancouver Canucks blew a 3-0 series lead to hand the Cup to Boston, much to my delight. Alas, every Canadian team not located in Toronto or Montreal has made the final in the past decade (not including the Jets, who rejoined the league last year). But this year, Canadians from coast-to-coast won’t have that one team to rally behind… unless you count the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Of course, the Pens beat the only Canadian team that beat a Canadian team in the first round, and are thus directly responsible for dispatching Ottawa, who in turn beat Montreal. Considering the Canucks’ annual choke-job and the Leafs’ epic collapse, you could say the Pens are to blame for blocking this country’s best shot at a Stanley Cup. But hey, it’s not like there isn’t a bevy of Pittsburgh players who’ll be bringing the Cup home to Canada in the coming months… starting with Captain Canada himself. No, not this guy!
Say what you want about Sidney Crosby, but when he scored the gold-medal-winning goal in overtime to beat the States in the Vancouver Olympics, he forever etched himself in my–and most of the country’s–good books. And thanks to a fortuitous deadline deal, he’s been reunited with Jarome Iginla, the greatest black hockey player of all-time, who also drew the gold-winning assist. I’m pretty sure most of Calgary’s been cheering for the Penguins since the playoffs started. Well, some of us might have been cheering for San Jose, too–until they swept Vancouver. Now there’s really no need to support the Sharks.
But while they’re the most notable Canadian nationals, Crosby and Iginla aren’t the only Canucks in Pittsburgh. In fact, 15 of the 28 players listed on their roster hail from the land of Timbits and Kraft Dinner. How Canadian are the Pens? Put it this way: They traded a Staal for a Sutter. Sure, Brandon might be be a second-generation, Son of Sutter, who was born while his dad (Brent) was playing on Long Island–but how many teams can claim ties to two Canadian hockey dynasties? All they need is a Subban, and they’re practically the 11th province!
The Pens lineup also boasts the likes of Pascal Dupuis from Laval, Kris Letang from Montreal and the pride of Sorel-Tracy, backup goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s been doing a great job holding out a towel for Tomas Vokoun between periods. Concurrently, Captain Crosby centres a line with Dupuis and Chris Kunitz, the pride of Regina, while Iginla’s been skating with Whitby native James Neal and Magnitogorsk’s own Evgeni Malkin. OK, so Magnitogorsk is a mid-sized steeltown south of Russia’s Ural Mountains, but give ‘em a CFL team, and they’re basically Hamilton.
In any case, the Pens will be facing off against Boston in the Eastern Conference final starting sometime late next week. Hey, it’s not like anyone in the GTA is gonna be cheering for the Bruins, soooo…