The Coffee Shop

Stanley Cup Rant 2021

If you look really close, you can see a faded Canadian Maple Leaf. This rant has nothing to do with the perennial demise of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the Toronto area, Leaf fans joke that in every other place in the world leaves fall in the autumn. In Toronto, though, the Leafs fall in the spring! HA! HA! No, this rant has nothing to do with the perennial demise of my beloved Maple Leafs. I have come to the cynical conclusion that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) has no interest in the the Leafs winning the Stanley Cup. They make far too much money with them being perennial losers. It has been 54 years since a Leaf captain hoisted the Stanley Cup, and I am not likely going to live long enough to see another Leaf captain raise the Cup above his head.

The last Canadian team to hoist Lord Stanley’s beloved Cup was the Montreal Canadiens in 1993, the same year that Gary Bettman became commissioner of the NHL. Recently, CBC published an article about the conspiracy theories that have populated Internet sites for years that somehow the NHL fixes Stanley Cup games or conspires against Canadian teams to ensure that the Cup remains south of the border. The article claimed that there was no evidence to support any of the theories. Oh gee guys, there is NO evidence! Okay, let’s all shrug and believe that Mr Bettman and the greedy American owners all play fair.

Personally, I do not believe that Gary Bettman has anything to do with the Cup remaining below the border. I don’t think he has that much interest in hockey. He is a business man. I am sure he likes hockey, perhaps even enjoys watching games, but I don’t think he is that invested in the sport that he would risk his freedom and his wealth just to insure an American team always wins the Stanley Cup.

The CBC, while a credible news source, is not unbiased. They have skin in this game. They broadcast NHL games, so what would you expect them to say? They went after the most recent former Governor-General of Canada, but they had no skin in that game. Regardless of what they reported, there were no consequences to what they reported. If they did find corruption at the NHL level with respect to Stanley Cup games, the NHL, or the rogue parties that are part of any possible conspiracy, could lash out at the CBC, citing unrelated reasons for disallowing them, or any of their broadcasters, from participating in an NHL broadcast.

I am not sure what readers of this blog think about the 28 years that no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup. It has been 28 consecutive years since the Montreal Canadiens won the Cup. A few Canadian teams have come close, but have always collapsed in the final. Sometimes, like this year, the American team was clearly better than the Canadian team and deserved to win the Cup. There were other years, though, that Canadian hockey fans were left confused with respect to the officiating.

That is a major problem in the NHL, particularly in the playoffs. What is called a penalty in the first period magically is okay in the third period or in overtime. Not only does it make it less enjoyable for the fans, it must be a nightmare for the players who never know what the officials will call. Is tripping a penalty in overtime in a deciding game of a series? What about crosschecking? Is it okay to interfere with another player in the first period of game 2? The rules are on the books for a reason. Almost all penalties can cause injury to another player. To abandon the rules depending on the period or the game only adds to the confusion and gives rise to conspiriacy theories.

So what if there is no evidence? Prisons have robust populations of people who were convicted without evidence. The people who hold to the conspiracy theories generally do not claim they have any evidence, or a smoking gun. Rather, they point to the fact that NO Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup in 28 years, which most people believe is really curious. It isn’t that all our teams have been lousy teams. In fact, there have been some very good teams.

What is the NHL’s worst nightmare? What scenario keeps them awake at night? It would be a Toronto-Vancouver Stanley Cup final, or perhaps a Montreal-Edmonton final. Why? Because they would lose what little American market they might have if it was a Montreal-Tampa Bay final, or a Winnepeg-Boston final. Hockey is fourth among the big four team sports in the US. In places like the American South, they have virtually no presence. The same in western states like Utah, Montana, Idaho, and in the southeast in states like Kentucky, and Tennessee, even though Nashville does have an NHL team. Hockey is not that popular in the US, as a country. There are hot spots, such as the northeast and Minnesota. Hockey does well in cities like Detroit, although I would imagine much of their fan base is Canadian. New York, Chicago, and to a lesser extent, Los Angeles also do well. Apart from those centers, hockey does not have much of a presence. So, the only way Mr Bettman and the NHL can benefit from any American interest in the Stanley Cup playoffs is to make sure there is an American team in each round of the playoffs. Somehow, for the past 28 years, the NHL has managed to do that.

I have no idea how they do it, but I am sure if there was total transparency, it would not pass the smell test. It has gone on long enough.

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