Hockey may be Canada’s great sports passion, but as most fans absolutely know by now, our NHL teams have struggled in their pursuit of the sport’s biggest prize.
With the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs both falling in round two of the NHL Playoffs, our national drought has hit another special milestone. Canadian-based NHL teams have now gone 30 years without winning the Stanley Cup.
The last team to do it was the 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens, and they needed some playoff magic to make it happen, winning 10 games in overtime that spring.
Since then, Canadian teams have made it to the Stanley Cup final on six occasions, losing all six times. Today, instead of more tedious dwelling on the 30 year championship drought, Faces looks back on the six seasons when Canadian teams came, oh, so close. And showed some serious resilience in the process.
Montreal Canadiens (2021)
Montreal was the last Canadian team to win the Cup and also the most recent one to make it to the Cup final. It was a weird run, to be sure, with fans being kept away due to COVID. The Habs appeared dead and buried in round one against Toronto, before winning three straight to eliminate their oldest Canadian rival. From there, they swept the Jets, defeated Vegas in six, but then ran into the Tampa juggernaut, which won its second straight Cup and third overall.
Vancouver Canucks (2011)
Both teams in the 2011 Cup Final were fortunate to get out of the first round, each winning a Game 7 in overtime. The Canucks won the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best regular season team and jumped out to a 3-0 series lead on Chicago. But the Hawks became the seventh team in NHL history to force a Game 7 after trailing 3–0 in a playoff series. They couldn’t finish the deal, though, as the Canucks moved on, then took down Nashville and San Jose.
Then, when they held a 3-2 series lead in the Cup Final, the Canadian drought looked to be ready to fall. But Boston rallied to take Games 6 and 7 to win it all. For Sens fans, there was some nostalgia in watching Bruin captain Zdeno Chara celebrate and accept the Cup.
Ottawa Senators (2007)
It was the first (and only) time in modern Sens history they made the final. It was an incredible spring in Ottawa which saw its NHL team stomp their way through the first three rounds in just 15 games. Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza finished in a three-way tie for the scoring lead. Alfie’s overtime goal in Buffalo to send the Sens to the Cup final will never be forgotten. But that was on May 19th. The Cup Final didn’t begin until May 28th. Anaheim won the first two games at home, scoring the game winners late in the third period on both nights. The Sens won Game 3 at home, but after a hard fought 3-2 loss in Game 4, the Sens didn’t have much left for the return trip to Anaheim , which finished up with a 6-2 victory in Game 5.
Edmonton Oilers (2006)
This series marked the first time that two teams that emerged from the former World Hockey Association faced each other for the Stanley Cup. The Oilers were an amazing story that spring, becoming the first team to make it to the Cup final as a #8 seed. They trailed Carolina 3-1 in the series but rallied to force a Game 7, only to lose to the ‘Canes in Raleigh, 3-1.
Calgary Flames (2004)
This was the last Stanley Cup Final played for two years, as the 2004–05 NHL lockout began three months later. The Flames were a hard working bunch, playing 26 playoff games that year, just two shy of the maximum number of playoff games you can play in one year.
Incredibly, Calgary forward Martin Gelinas scored the series-winning goal in each of the first three series and almost made it a fourth with what might have been a game and Cup winning goal late in Game 6. The puck appeared to cross the line but no one noticed so the game went to overtime and Tampa won. The Lightning, the Sens’ expansion cousins, then won their first Cup in Game 7.
Vancouver Canucks (1994)
Led by Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden and Kirk McLean, the Canucks’ run to the Cup final stumbled badly out of the gate. As the 7th seed in the West that year, the Canucks fell behind 3-1 to the Calgary Flames, but they didn’t go away. They won Game 5 in overtime, Game 6 in overtime, and Game 7 in double overtime. No other team has ever rallied from a 3-1 deficit with 3 overtime wins.
Vancouver’s run also included a Western Final victory over Toronto and that was the last time two Canadian teams have met in a Conference Final. After Mark Messier guaranteed victory over the Devils in the Eastern Final, the Rangers seemed like a team of destiny. And they did win it all, but not before Vancouver took them to seven games.
Six Conference titles in 30 years and many more conference final appearances would strongly suggest that Canada’s day will come, sooner rather than later.