The Stanley Cup championship won Wednesday evening by the St. Louis Blues had some special resonance in Canada, and not just because, you know, hockey.
The Blues became the latest team to win its first title in franchise history this decade. Time is running out for that trend to continue, but the Raptors have a golden opportunity to add their name to the list, starting with Thursday’s Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
With St. Louis’s triumph, eight teams across the four major sports leagues have hoisted a champions’ trophy for the first time since Jan. 1, 2010. In addition, several other squads have ended epic droughts, none greater than the 107-year stretch of futility finally snapped by the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 World Series (H/T Rich Eisen).
Of course, D.C.-area fans can happily cite the previous NHL team to turn the first-ever trick, as the Washington Capitals got off the schneid just last year, after having been established 44 years previously. In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings hoisted the Cup for the first time in their then-45 years, while the Blues went 51 years before tasting the sweetest success.
The decade began with the Chicago Blackhawks winning it all for the first time in 49 years, while the Boston Bruins, who fell to the Blues in Wednesday’s Game 7, can at least console themselves with the fact that they halted a 39-year skid in 2011.
For their part, the Raptors are hoping to stand atop the NBA for the first time since starting play in 1995. They can take heart from the examples set this decade by the Dallas Mavericks (2011, first championship in 31 years of existence) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (2016, first in their 46-season history).
The last chance this decade to win a first-ever title in one of the four major sports leagues (apologies to MLS, but it didn’t even start play until 1996, so it seems fair to leave it out of this exercise) will come in baseball.
Seven MLB franchises have yet to win a World Series, although it’s only been a two-decade drought thus far for the Tampa Bay Rays, who began play in 1998. In a somewhat similar vein, fans in Washington have only had the Nationals around to torment them since 2005, but the franchise can date its total lack of a championship back to 1969, when it began life as the Montreal Expos.
Before locals start grabbing pitchforks and heading to The Post’s D.C. headquarters, it’s well worth mentioning that Washington’s overall want of a World Series winner goes back to 1925, the year after the Senators brought the only title thus far to the nation’s capital. So baseball fans in these parts, particularly of a certain vintage, have reason to feel like it’s been a while.
That version of the Senators moved to Minnesota in 1960 and, as the Twins, won it all in 1987 and 1991. Washington immediately got an expansion franchise, also called the Senators, who have been the Texas Rangers since 1972 and still await a championship.
The other MLB franchises also still seeking a World Series triumph include the San Diego Padres (founded in 1969), Milwaukee Brewers (founded in 1969 as the Seattle Pilots before moving to Wisconsin a year later), the Seattle Mariners (1977) and the Colorado Rockies (1993).
They can look for inspiration from the breakthrough this decade by the Houston Astros, who in 2017 won the first World Series in their 56 seasons to that point. In addition, 2010 saw the Giants win their first championship since moving to San Francisco in 1958, and the first overall for the franchise since 1954.
Finally, we have the NFL, which got the decade off to a bang with the New Orleans Saints winning their first and as yet only Super Bowl in 2010. Four years later, the Seattle Seahawks got it done for the first time since coming into existence 38 years previously.
The Philadelphia Eagles also used this decade to remind themselves of what it feel like to be a champion. In 2018, they won their first league title in the Super Bowl era and their first overall since 1960.
So the Raptors have both a lot to live up to and some reason to feel like their timing is perfect, even if they have to wait until Sunday’s Game 7 to seal the deal. Heck, they can also look at the example of the Warriors, whose 2015 championship was the first for the franchise in 40 years.
And if it doesn’t work out, well, there are always the 2020s. Of course, the same could be said for the title-deprived Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers (three in the ABA but none in the NBA), Brooklyn Nets (two in the ABA), Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, Charlotte Hornets, Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves. So the Raptors may just want to go ahead and strike while the iron is hot.