Please read this one evening, during Hockey Night in America, when you have nothing to do. That no Canadian team made the playoffs this year may be a random occurrence. That none has won a Stanley Cup for 23 years is not. Something is up -- or down.
All kinds of explanations have been offered: the low Canadian dollar, higher taxes, questionable management, players preferring obscurity, and so on. Don't believe any of it; they are all excuses. The fans are here, the audiences are here, the money is here, and the energy is here, or at least could be.
I think it's about pride, sheer pride -- basic self-respect. We have lost control of our own game, and we do nothing about it. We wimps don't deserve to win a Stanley Cup. We have been bullied by an enforcer in New York who barely knows how to skate.
We have all seen great teams falter and lose their energy, their drive. Well, this has been happening in a great country. Where we stand on our own two feet, we do rather well, thank you. Compare this record in the NHL with the international competitions -- the World Cup and the Olympics. Men and women, we usually come out best. We certainly know how to manage hockey teams, how to coach them, and how to win at our own game -- when we are in no-one else's shadow.
Can we change this? Of course we can. Consider these words of the French Philosopher Alain: "All change seems impossible, but once accomplished, it's the state we are no longer in that seems impossible." So step ahead to look back on the impossible state of hockey here in 2016.
Imagine the Hockey League of Canada has twelve teams, six in the East and six in the West. They are doing so well that two more are about to come in. Every game is sold out, and the TV audiences are bigger than ever. Last year, the Victoria Whales beat the Halifax Herrings to win our liberated Stanley Cup. The energy from coast to coast to coast was overwhelming; even the Grey Cup game was put to shame. The Whales went on consume the Penguins in five games to win the North American Manley Cup. This year the York Northers are challenging the Laval reHabs for supremacy in the East. But don't count out the Habs or the Leafs quite yet: their managers insist their recoveries are well underway.
Unfortunately, that Manley Cup is in danger: they are having a tough time keeping hockey going down there, with Canadian money no longer flowing in. Taking a leaf (so to speak) from the CFL, the U.S. Hockey League has instituted a cap on the number of Canadian players allowed on each team. Still they struggle, especially in the 90 degree heat. Phoenix is gone; can Las Vegas be far behind?
Is all this just the fantasy of someone who believes in his country, especially when it thinks for itself? Look, there are a hundred reasons why this will not work -- ask any short-sighted fan, player, or owner -- and just one reason why it will: because its time has come. "There is no force so powerful as an idea whose time has come" (Everett Dirksen). If Americans could go to the moon, if Canadians could beat them in the war of 1812, if Brits can consider Brexit, then surely we Canadians are capable of bringing our own national sport home. It is time for us to show the guts off the ice that our players show on.
Henry Mintzberg is Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at the McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management.
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