Before this month, it had been 20 years since one of Washington’s four major professional sports teams appeared in a conference final. It has been just as long since one of those teams appeared in a championship series, when the Caps lost the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals to Detroit in four games.
If you really believe Washington’s sports curse is over — beaten black and blue by Braden Holtby’s waffle pad, vanquished by Evgeny Kuznetsov’s backhand into the five-hole of history — there are other sports cities (and states) left to cry for.
For these cities, which have at least two major professional sports teams, the wait for a championship-round appearance has been at least 15 years. And their wait continued even after the Caps finished off Pittsburgh in six games Monday night.
Last title appearance: 1990 World Series
Result: Reds defeat Athletics in four games
Jose Rijo threw a two-hitter in 8 1/3 innings, Hal Morris smacked a deep flyball to right field to score a man in the eight inning to put the Reds in front for good in Game 4, and Cincinnati swept Oakland to clinch the title.
Before that, the Bengals reached the Super Bowl after the 1988 season, but lost to San Francisco, 20-16, when Joe Montana hit John Taylor in the end zone from 10 yards out.
Since, both teams have been models of consistency, in their own ways.
The Reds have been to the postseason just four times since 1990. The Bengals have been to the playoffs seven of the past 13 seasons under Coach Marvin Lewis but never advanced beyond the first round.
Last title appearance: 1993 World Series
Results: Blue Jays defeat Phillies in six games
It has been all downhill for Toronto since Joe Carter smacked a walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1993 series against Philadelphia, the Blue Jays’ second consecutive World Series title. The Maple Leafs advanced to the conference finals earlier that year but lost to the Los Angeles Kings. The Raptors were still two years from playing their first season as an expansion team. It was a great time to be a Toronto fan.
And then the Jays went 21 years without a playoff appearance. The Leafs couldn’t reach the Stanley Cup Finals, even with four teams that earned 100 points in that span.
The Raptors have emerged as contenders in the NBA’s Eastern Conference in recent years, but keep running into a playoff buzz saw named LeBron James.
Last title appearance: 1991 World Series
Result: Twins defeat Braves in seven games
In Game 7, Jack Morris refused to leave the mound after nine innings of shutout work for the Twins, and he threw a perfect 10th inning, too. Gene Larkin singled in Dan Gladden from third base with one out in the bottom of the 10th to win it. ESPN labeled that World Series the best yet in its centennial celebration of baseball’s championship round.
And then, like the Blue Jays, the Twins fell into a postseason drought, this one lasting 10 years. The Timberwolves had something special between 1996 and 2004, with Kevin Garnett in his prime; they made eight straight playoff appearances capped off with a trip to the 2004 Western Conference finals, but met Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, ending that postseason run.
The Wild didn’t take the ice until 2000, yet somehow managed a trip to the conference finals in 2003. That ended in a sweep against Anaheim. And the Vikings have lost four NFC title games in the last 20 years.
Last title appearance: 1999 Stanley Cup Finals
Result: Sabres lose to Stars in six games
No one could break a 1-1 tie through two overtimes in Game 7 between the Sabres and Dallas Stars. Then, with 5:10 to play in the third extra period, Brett Hull poked a rebound past a sprawling Dominik Hasek to win the Stanley Cup for Dallas.
Buffalo was able to string together some good years after the colossal disappointment, and made consecutive conference finals in 2006 and 2007. But the team has missed the playoffs in each of the past seven seasons.
Meanwhile, in the 1994 Super Bowl, the Bills got out to a 13-6 lead at half, before Dallas pounded the ball with future Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith until the Buffalo defense broke. Smith finished with two touchdowns and 132 yards on 20 carries. It was the fourth Super Bowl in a row for the Bills, and the fourth straight loss.
Buffalo made four more playoff appearances over the next six years, but never with the same mojo. In 2000, it missed the playoffs altogether with an 8-8 record. In 2001, it was out of the postseason picture with a 3-13 mark. That was part of a 17-year postseason drought.
So these four regions could now use your thoughts, prayers and a little puck luck.
And really, Washington, D.C., could, too, because the city’s 20-year streak without a championship appearance hasn’t yet ended.
Those upstart 2007-08 “Rock the Red” Capitals were a blast to watch, and then were undone by Joffrey Lupul’s backhand on the power play in Game 7 against Philadelphia.
The next year, it was the Penguins, then the Canadiens, then the Lightning, then the Rangers two years in a row. Skip a season, and it was the Rangers one more time in 2015, then the Penguins in 2016 and 2017. That’s a lot of heartbreak.
The Wizards haven’t made it past the second round, the Redskins have lost their last four playoff games, and the Nationals have never won a playoff series.
If you think reaching the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals is enough to lift Washington’s curse, you now have four sports markets to choose from that could use your sympathy. If not, it’s probably still not worth attending the memorial service for the D.C. Sports Troll.
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