Imagine for a second the Stanley Cup playoffs without any Canadian teams. Weird, eh? But it’s happened before, and it looks as if it’s going to happen again this season. With 20 or so games remaining in the regular season, there are zero Canadian teams in playoff position. The Great White North is looking at its first playoff shutout since the 1969-70 season, when there were only 12 teams total, two of them Canadian.
According to one estimate, only two of the seven Canadian teams — Ottawa (five points out of a wild-card spot) and Montreal (seven points out) — have a greater than 4 percent chance of making the playoffs. Overall, there’s a 90 percent chance we’ll be without a Canadian playoff team, according to Sports Club Stats.
Canada’s failure to field a playoff team could cause a ripple effect throughout the country. To wit:
— Canadian broadcasting company Rogers Media spent $3.8 billion for the country’s NHL TV rights in 2013, but ratings have struggled along with the country’s hockey teams. After the last of the five Canadian teams was eliminated from last year’s playoffs, Rogers saw its ratings drop 20 percent compared with ratings from the previous season. As Awful Announcing points out, Rogers laid off 200 employees in January, and while the company said Canada’s NHL woes didn’t have anything to do with it, one has to think that’s just spin.
— All those fans who would usually pack the stadium-area bars for pregame and postgame playoff revelry: They’ll be staying home. “Moving forward, I’m much more nervous about April, May, June,” Toby Lyle, who owns several Montreal pubs, told the CBC in late January. “When the Habs are in the playoffs, it’s huge. You turn people away no matter what day of the week it is.”
— The shutout would cause much emotional distress in a country where the sport is so ingrained in the national psyche. ”I’d think I’d cry for a long time,” one Canadiens fan told the CBC at a recent game.
But hey, at least the Canadian fans aren’t having days-long debates about whether a good regular season is good enough.