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Canucks Give Canada Hope for Cup's Return

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CANUCKS SHARKS GAME FOUR
AP

It's been a long time, Canada, 18 years to be exact, since Patrick Roy led the Montreal Canadiens to a Stanley Cup win back in 1993. That means an entire generation of hockey fans have no first hand recollection of a Canadian-based team winning the Stanley Cup.

Hockey is Canada's game and the country has never gone this long without a cup winner. The previous drought was just seven years, from 1935 when the now defunct Montreal Maroons won their last Stanley Cup, until 1942 when the Maple Leafs brought the cup back home to Canada.

The Stanley Cup used to practically be the property of Canadian-based teams. Between 1956 and 1969, the cup was won by either the Maple Leafs (imagine that) or the Canadiens team 13 times in 14 seasons. Even after expansion, Canada still had a pretty good hold on the cup with the Canadiens, Oilers and Flames and keeping the symbol of hockey supremacy home in Canada 11 times in 15 seasons between 1976 and 1990.

There have been several near misses since 1993. The Canucks came within a game of giving Canada two straight cups in 1994 when they reached the finals before falling to Mark Messier and the New York Rangers in seven games. Two years later, the Colorado Avalanches won the cup just one season after relocating from Quebec City. In 2004, the Calgary Flames reached the finals and fell in seven games to a team from America's "Sunshine State," the Tampa Bay Lightning. Post lockout, two Canadian teams reached the finals in back-to-back seasons with the Edmonton Oilers making a Cinderella run in 2006 before falling to the Hurricanes and the Ottawa Senators losing to the Anaheim Ducks in five games in 2007.

The Vancouver Canucks have now reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994. Unlike past Canadian-based teams to reach the Stanley Cup, the Canucks will be the favorite as they had the league's best record this year and have a very deep and talented team.

But some people in Vancouver have raised questions as to whether or not the rest of the country would support the Canucks the way they united to root on the Sens, Flames and Oilers in past years. Heck, Edmonton and Calgary have one of the most intense rivalries in the NHL and yet, people in Edmonton were seen wearing red and pulling for the Flames in their intense battle with the Lightning.

Some in the Vancouver media have said that since the Canucks play most of their games after so much of the country has gone to sleep, the team has been virtually ignored by Canadians who live in the eastern 2/3 of the country.

That almost certainly won't last in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Canucks represent Canada's best chance in 18 years to bring the cup home. The nation won't ignore that fact. Being out west didn't stop Canadians from rallying around Vancouver at the last Winter Olympics and won't stop them from rooting for a Canadian team from bringing Lord Stanley of Preston's Cup back home to Canada. Hockey fans in Canada have waited long enough...