The Old Guy Without A Cup is one of playoff hockey’s best traditions. Every season, right around this time, fans start hearing about the grizzled veterans on the remaining teams that are chasing the very first championship of their NHL careers. Some have had agonizing near-misses in the past; others have never even come close. In many cases, the drama is unmistakable because we know that this is probably their last chance.
The Old Guy Without A Cup, or OGWAC for short, makes for a great story. They’re easy for fans to root for, and can serve as inspiration for their teammates. Over the years, it’s even become tradition for the winning captain to seek out his team’s OGWAC for the honour of receiving the first handoff.
Ray Bourque is probably the best OGWAC story of all-time; back in 2001, it was almost impossible not to cheer him on as the then 40-year-old defenceman chased his first title in what would be the final season of his 22-year career. When he finally got it, hockey fans were treated to one of the era’s most emotional moments.
Other memorable OGWACs include Lanny MacDonald in 1989 and Teemu Selanne in 2007. Last year, it was Kimmo Timonen, the 39-year-old veteran who’d never won a thing over the course of his long career, right up until Jonathan Toews handed him the Cup.
This year, as always, there are a handful of candidates in the running to be this year’s feel-good story. We’re obviously looking for guys that are old, which we’ll define as 33 and up. They also need to playing an active role in their team’s Cup hunt; you’ll occasionally see a scratch earn OGWAC status (like Denis Savard in 1993), but it’s rare. And bonus points will be awarded for near misses and adversity faced along the way.
With all that in mind, here are the ten best OGWAC candidates left standing in this year’s playoffs.
Steve Ott, St. Louis Blues
The notorious pest is in his 13th NHL season, almost all of them spent doing the thankless work of a third or fourth-liner. He’s also a divisive player, one who proudly plays the agitator role, has been suspended multiple times and once thought it would be a good idea to do this.
Near misses: Ott’s longest run came as part of the Stars team that made the conference final back in 2008.
Adversity tracker: It’s probably fair to say that Ott is one of the most hated players in the league. Does that count as adversity? I’m not sure it does.
Bottom line: A big part of any OGWAC story is the player being fun to root for, which will disqualify Ott in the eyes of many fans. But if you can talk yourself into the whole “guy you love to hate” thing, you might be able to get on board.
Jason Spezza, Dallas Stars
Spezza hasn’t hit our 33-years-old cutoff yet, but he likely will by the time the Stanley Cup is won, so he qualifies. Still, it’s almost impossible to think of him as “old”. This guy was a K-Mart model as a kid, and he still looks exactly the same today.
Near misses: Spezza was a key part of the Senators run to the final in 2007, and was a rookie on the 2003 team that lost a heart-breaking conference final to the Devils.
Adversity tracker: He’s battled injuries for much of his career, including back problems that cost him most of his 2012-13 season.
Bottom line: Spezza checks most of the OGWAC boxes, but as long as his back holds up he seems like a guy who has lots of hockey ahead of him. He makes the list, but we can’t rank him that highly.