Hockey

O Canada, Let the Stanley Cup Return to Montreal

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins ,The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

For the good of the sport, for the good of the National Hockey League, for the good of every clear-thinking hockey fan, we must join together and root for the Montreal Canadiens to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup finals.

Tampa Bay simply cannot win back to back Cups. It should never win another Cup. It proved itself unworthy last season when it won the franchise’s second Cup and celebrated thusly:

It had a parade – a boat parade. On water. Water is frozen into ice on which hockey is played. It is not played on water. There are no boats. No team travels by boat. No boats.

“Who does a boat parade?” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who might have said some complimentary things after posing that question, which hockey philosophers have been contemplating for the last year and concurred – no boat parades.

The Lightning’s parade was held on the Hillsborough River, which is 40 miles long. The Hudson River, for comparison sake, is 315 miles long, making the Hillsborough little more than a stream. Or a creek. Or a runoff.

The mighty Hillsborough, words that have never been written, begins at the Green Swamp. That’s correct, the river on which the Lightning held its 2020 Stanley Cup Boat Parade, begins at a swamp.

In fairness, the Green Swamp collects rainwater that percolates down through the soil to replenish the Florida aquifer system, according Wikipedia. I prefer my drinking water unpercolated, but that’s just me.

The boat parade (no boats other than those in the official team, uh, Lightning fleet, were allowed in the parade), required the closing of six bridges. Not sure why.

It got worse. The celebration than moved to Raymond James Stadium, a football venue. Nothing like a hockey celebration in a football venue. This is what happens when a city that has a corporate downtown which rolls up by 7 p.m. wins a championship. There is no Canyon of Heroes. There is the Hillsborough River.

Having viewed photos of the parade, the first thought was a line from Jaws famously uttered by Roy Scheider. “We’re going to need a nicer boat,” or something along those lines.

I confess to not being a nautical man. Maybe these were the biggest and nicest boats that could float on the mighty Hillsborough (again that sentence!).

Maybe Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ 357-foot mega yacht, which I saw up close on a recent trip to the Exumas, couldn’t fit on the Hillsborough. I think Jones would have loaned out the “Bravo Eugenia,” because there’s no telling when there will be a parade in Dallas for the Cowboys. Just musing, here.

Speaking of storied franchises that have experienced a horrendous championship drought, we give you the Montreal Canadiens, founded in 1909. Also known as Habs, Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, Le Grand Club, LaSainte-Flannel (the Holy Sweater), the Canadiens have won 25 championships (24 Cups), the second most titles only to the Yankees (stuck on 27 since 2009) among major sports franchises in North America.

Canadiens. Cowboys. Yankees. Notre Dame hasn’t won a national championship since 1988.

The Canadiens last title came 28 years ago in 1993, when Beanie Babies were launched, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk shared the Noble Peace Prize and terrorists bombed the World Trade Center with a van bomb.

The Canadiens parade stretched from The Forum, their home arena and an actually hockey venue, to city hall. There was, unfortunately, a night of rioting, proving that Philadelphia is not the only city that doesn’t know how to celebrate properly.

The Lightning, occasionally referred as the Bolts, were founded in 1992. By 1995 the IRS was threatening to place a lien on the franchise for reportedly owing $750,000 in back taxes. But by 2004, after several ownership changes, the Lightning won their first Stanley Cup and, wait for it, they had a parade – on land – in downtown Tampa. Businesses did not close allowing workers to enjoy the parade during their lunch hour, like a street corner quartet.

Yes, the Lightning are seeking to become the first franchise since the 2016-17 Penguins to win consecutive Cups but that’s not a novelty. It’s been done 16 times. The Lightning have eliminated the Islanders the last two years. They must pay for that and the Canadiens are the perfect collection agents.

Montreal is the only franchise to have won five straight Cups (1956-60). Montreal has produced 267 NHL players, according to QuantHockey. Florida has produced 14 NHL players, according to the same site.

This is a hockey computer date gone awry and must be corrected. We all must root for Canada and sing “O Canada” with gusto in English and French. Sober or not.

The Canadiens and Lightning open their series Monday night in Tampa. If you’re planning on attending by boat, the National Weather Service is calling for east winds and 10 knots and a light chop. This is the first, and hopefully, last time a Canadiens’ Stanley Cup playoff preview has included a boating forecast.

I guarantee you the Canadiens, the last Canadian team to win the Cup, will not host their victory parade on the Montreal River which flows from Smoothwater Lake to Lake Timiskaming with no swamp in sight. Their fans will be so overcome with joy this time they’ll be no rioting, we hope.

When the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1977, the Montreal Gazette reported that the team consumed 132 bottles of champagne when the parade reached city hall. Magnifique! The official craft beer of the Lightning is the Cigar City Brewing company. Cigar Brewing. That’s an oxymoron.

When Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings, it began a horrible growth trend that shifted the home of the NHL from Canada to the U.S. No Canadian champ since 1993. It’s like we sucked all the maple syrup out of Canada and left it bone dry.

For the good of the sport, for the good of the National Hockey League, for the good of every clear-thinking hockey fan, we must join together and root for the Montreal Canadiens. We must.

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