Due to our deadlines, I won’t be able to comment on this week’s provincial election results until the next time I tiptoe into this space.
So, for now, I’ll offer a few random thoughts on a more civilized sport: Hockey. After all, we’ve seen the game at its best in recent weeks, with a lot to celebrate from both a Canadian and overall perspective.
For example, take the hard-fought national championship victory of the Cape Breton West Islanders. After blasting their way through the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League (NSMMHL) during the regular season and play-offs, the road got rockier in the Atlantics in Miramichi and at the Telus Cup in Victoria, but Kyle MacDonald’s crew never faltered.
Almost as exciting as the Telus Cup final, which saw Cape Breton West rally from a third-period two-goal deficit and win the game and the national title early in overtime, was the reception the team received when its players and coaches returned home.
I was especially touched by my colleague Grant McDaniel’s coverage of the homecoming of four players to Dalbrae Academy. The boys get a lift from the local fire department to the Mabou school site, where the front lawn was chock-a-block with cheering students, teachers and community members.
I remember covering this franchise when it first took shape two decades ago as the Rod’s One Stop Eagles, drawing only handfuls of local hockey fans to Strait area rinks, so it’s wonderful to see the hometown crowd honour these amazing young lads for a job well done.
That wasn’t the only exciting finish for a local hockey club, of course. A University Cup semi-final loss might be a little bittersweet for the StFX X-Men after losing the national title only 12 months earlier, but at least the Blue and White stood tall in defeating eventual national champion UNB for the Atlantic University Sport banner. A tradition of excellence has been established at both schools, and not just this year, which makes me think we’ll see them tangling on a regular basis for regional and national supremacy.
Over in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, we’ve heard a lot of recent chattering about how the presence of six Maritime clubs could justify a name change for the league itself. Count me in with the camp that’s backing “Quebec-Maritime Junior Hockey League” – you wouldn’t even need to change the acronym and everyone would still call it “The Q” anyway. Problem solved.
Besides, it’s not as if the Maritime teams are also-rans within the league or on the national scale. With four East Coast teams winning a combined seven QMJHL titles and two Memorial Cups over the past two decades, and the other two certainly remaining competitive even if they’ve never reached the league finals, it’s inconceivable to picture any formal league designation that only mentions Quebec.
Sad to see the Ottawa Senators come within a whisper of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 10 years, only to fall on a Game Seven double-overtime goal in the third round. This post-season offered all kinds of hope for the future of Canada’s NHL franchises, as the Senators, Edmonton Oilers and even Toronto Maple Leafs all played over their heads and gave their stockpiles of exciting young players their first taste of true playoff excitement. I expect all three of them to be back in the mix next year, and for years to come.
New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist may have emerged as the most unpredictable hockey enigma in the world, or at least in Canada, following his streaky play this spring. How could the same guy frustrate the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, completely collapse against the Senators in the second round, and then play the hero for Sweden in the gold-medal game against Canada in the IIHF World Men’s Hockey Championships? Was that really the same guy, all three times?
Further to the world championships: I can’t believe this is the second time in less than five months that Canada has lost a world title in a shootout. Seriously, IIHF, end this nonsense, right now. (And yes, I would feel the exact same way if Canada had won either time.)
Finally: I was steeling myself for the possibility that P.K. Subban could wind up in the Stanley Cup Finals with Nashville after his much-ballyhooed trade from the Canadiens. I wish him well, although in my heart I’m pulling for Sidney Crosby to take the Cup back to Cole Harbour one more time.
And finally, at the risk of ending on a down note: One year from now, CBC and Hockey Night In Canada will host the Stanley Cup play-offs for the last time.
Say it ain’t so…