Monday, May 10, 2004

CalJunket does sports, too.

The 2004 Stanley Cup Western Conference finals matchup between the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames is the best it's been since 1993 when the Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs faced off for a trip to the Big Series. Suntans and migrant labor versus snowballs and progressive income tax. This year's match is even more critical, though, because the Flames are the only Canadian team left in the playoffs, whereas in 1993 the Montreal Canadiens stayed alive in the East and went on to win the Cup. No Canadian team has won it all since the Habs did, and no Canadian team has made it to the Cup finals since the Vancourver Canucks did the following year.

Don't get me wrong. On a visceral level I'm rooting for my semi-home team Sharks. (Having discovered hockey while living in Long Beach, I will of course die a Kings fan. But during my tenure in the Bay Area I can afford to relinquish my sense of rivalry and have a second favorite.) But with the Canadian dollar suffering (and with the NHL not doing so well across the board) our teams to the north are losing clout. Remember the Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques? They got sent to Phoenix and Denver and got slapped with hideous purple logos. It's imperative that the birthplace of hockey remain the home of at least a handful of hockey teams, but this can't happen unless some Canadian teams get their poop together and win a Stanley Cup.

Who could have guessed 30 years ago that teams from San Jose and Tampa Bay would be in their conference finals? It's counterintuitive that the Golden State and Sunshine State would enjoy any success in a sport that requires ice. I suppose we have no one to blame but Wayne Gretzky, who in 1992 forfeited his Edmonton dynasty in exchange for millions of dollars and a tan. His legacy inspired thousands of kids to don roller blades and start street hockey teams all over the Sun Belt. The man from Branford, Ontario could even be held repsonsible for the birth of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Florida Panthers, and aforementioned Lightning. If anything, Gretzky single-handedly made the NHL a flashy commercial enterprse. I've never reconciled for myself whether that was a victory or a tragedy.

In short, yay Flames. And yay Sharks. But yayer Flames.

Five points to whoever guessed that Rebecca is blogging about hockey because she's avoiding writing her 10-page paper for Laura Nader's Controlling Processes course.


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