Tuesday, August 25, 2020

DGB vs. Mirtle: Are the Canucks now "Canada's Team"?

Like many great stories here at The Athletic, this all started with a Twitter argument.

One of us has a soft spot for the annual conversation over whether or not the last remaining NHL team from Canada — in this case, the Vancouver Canucks — should be deemed “Canada’s Team” and gain the resulting bandwagon fans.

The other person, however, thinks this is really dumb.

When we put the question to a poll on social media, meanwhile, the audience was split, nearly 50-50.

To settle this polarizing, important debate once and for all, we bring you this.

Mirtle: So, Sean, the second round has started and again in this country we’re down to one last hope in the playoffs, the Vancouver Canucks. Not a lot of confusion over who people should be cheering for, given there’s only one choice for Canada’s Team. Go Canucks! Hope they can end the 27-year drought.

McIndoe: James.

Mirtle: It’s been so long! Remember Montreal back in 1993? I was on a Grade 7 graduation field trip to Big Bar Ranch during that series. Ride a horse during the day, watch Kelly Hrudey let in some goals at night. That’s … a long time ago. So we need the Cup to come home, no? Give millennials something to get excited about?

OK, so I’m going a bit overboard. But there’s this great resistance to the idea of “Canada’s Team” among hockey fans in general that I think is a little unfair. It’s more something for casual fans to rally behind, the idea that there’s a city from this country still involved in the tournament.

It’s not like Canadian teams are in the finals all the time like in the ’80s — I think some fans just want something to care about once their team is eliminated. (Usually very early.)

McIndoe: Anyone who’s been reading me over the years knows where I’m going to go on this, but let’s be clear: Unless it’s an Olympics or world juniors, there’s no such thing as “Canada’s Team.”

Yes, there’s a drought. We all know about it. And we all want to see it end. But here’s the thing — we only want to see our team be the one to end it. That team (and city and fan base) will be the one to get all the bragging rights. Why should I want the Canucks and their fans to have all that fun?

Mirtle: Because the percentage of hockey fans that have that deep a level of animosity for teams on the other side of the country is pretty small? I mean, when your team (the Leafs) goes out early, do you just spite watch the rest of the tournament? There’s no joy left? Who do you root for?

I can see not wanting to get behind, say, the Senators, but Vancouver? That’s not a direct rival! And you’ve been there on vacation with your family without using a passport and, hey, good for them. You’d rather see Dallas win again than a team in Canada? That feels … weird.

McIndoe: First of all, never underestimate the animosity that hockey fans are capable of. We’re a very bitter and jaded bunch. We want our team to win, sure, but we also know that in a 31-team league, the odds of that are slim. So we want as many other fans as possible to be as sad as we are. Yeah, my team lost, but so did yours, so we all get to be miserable together.

It’s possible I’m projecting here. But I don’t think I’m alone.

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