The Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year World Series championship drought (or curse or hex or whatever supernatural terror you want to apply) on Wednesday night, and the reaction across the U.S. was awe-inspiring. Like a Usain Bolt race in the Olympics, it seemed like a shared experience – and one in which everybody shared some semblance of joy at the result.
Seriously, hug a Cubs fan today. It’s been a lifetime of waiting.
Oh, and, like, buy a Cleveland fan a coffee or something in a commemorative 2016 Cavaliers championship mug.
In the NHL, the lovefest for a long-suffering fan base wouldn’t have the same magnitude – although it should be said that the New York Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup championship win that ended a 54-year drought broke through to the mainstream. (Neil Smith was the O.G. Curse-Breaker before Theo.)
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be sweeping celebration, or begrudging congratulations, around the hockey world if certain franchises finally broke through and won the Stanley Cup.
Here are five NHL teams that are primed for a Chicago Cubs-style lovefest if and when they win the Stanley Cup.
5 – Washington Capitals
Stanley Cup Drought: 41 seasons
This spot could have easily been last season’s bridesmaids, the San Jose Sharks. But are the Sharks “Capitals West” or are the Capitals “Sharks East?” Who’s to say, really? But the two franchises share DNA in their playoff disappointments, each having only one conference title in their histories. In the case of the Capitals, you have a longer history of failure, which means a bit more nostalgia surrounding their first Cup win.
And while seeing Joe Thornton finally get his Cup would be exhilarating, finally seeing Alex Ovechkin adding a victory of any kind to his ledger would be legacy-affirming.
4 – St. Louis Blues
Stanley Cup Drought: 48 seasons
Another franchise that had decades of playoff appearances with little to show for it, and the second-most seasons (45 seasons) without a Stanley Cup Final appearance behind another team on the list. This is a franchise with history, from bloody Norris Division battles to its recent playoff breakthrough. Blues also have a large bench of former players that would no doubt flock to Finals games in support of the franchise.
The lovefest for St. Louis might have increased a few ticks when the Rams left town. But there are still some teams — looking at you, Chicago — that might not join in that lovefest if the Blues finally win.
3 – Toronto Maple Leafs
Stanley Cup Drought: 48 seasons
No doubt, these are the Chicago Cubs of the NHL right now, not having won since 1967 despite being one of the League’s glamour franchises.
Like the Cubs, they’ve brought in some “curse killers” to turn the tide in Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock. Like the Cubs, they’re amassing a great collection of young talent, will no doubt acquire more of it with their war chest.
But if and when the Leafs win the Cup, we feel it’s going feel more like when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time since 1918 vs. the Chicago Cubs winning it this season: That resentful congratulations for a franchise that’s only lovable in contrast with their more accomplished rivals (the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Yankees of hockey), and whose tortured existence is really quite satisfying for fans outside its metropolitan area.
You’re going to miss “it was a high stick!” as much as we now miss the Curse of the Bambino.
2 – Buffalo Sabres
Stanley Cup Drought: 45 seasons.
A perfect storm of pathetic: a city that’s never won; a franchise that’s never won; and in multiple sports in that city, defeats that were like taking a battering ram to the stomach. (Scott Norwood, say hello to Brett Hull’s skate.)
The Sabres are a franchise with some beloved nostalgia (Hasek, Lafontaine, The French Connection) in a hockey-mad (but small, comparatively) community. Their win might be more ‘Cleveland Cavaliers bringing gold to a sad-sack sports city’ than anything Cubs-like, but that doesn’t change the level of euphoria that would accompany it.
Especially if they win their first before the Maple Leafs win another one.
And finally …
1 – Winnipeg Jets
Stanley Cup Drought: 22 seasons, sorta.
The smallest NHL city. One that lost its beloved team to the American desert, before patiently waiting for its return when the Atlanta Thrashers failed.
Whether you consider Jets 2.0 a continuation of the franchise or not, the recent outdoor game showed those connections run deep. So if and when the Jets finally win their first Cup, it’s going to be a moment in which the current players share the experience with everyone who came before them: Dale to Teppo to Teemu.
And the real reason this would be a Cubs-like celebration for hockey? Those fans. Loud and passionate, never giving up hope if the face of hopelessness, the team a defining part of their lives and their community.
It’s hard not to imagine the hockey world celebrating with them. They’re like a safe zone for Canadian fans that hate the Leafs or hate the Canucks or are indifferent to the Senators.
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