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Strong Canadian performance in the NHL playoffs is good news for fans

For Russ Jericho, the Edmonton Oilers’ participation in the Stanley Cup playoffs is the culmination of an unlikely passion.

For Russ Jericho, the Edmonton Oilers’ participation in the Stanley Cup playoffs is the culmination of an unlikely passion.

Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Jericho said he was first introduced to hockey at the age of 13 when, looking for something to watch on TV one night, he came across a new channel broadcasting North American broadcast sports.

His childhood love of “Back to the Future,” starring Edmonton native Michael J. Fox and Edmonton professional wrestler Chris Benoit, ultimately drew him to Oilers fandom. The team’s Stanley Cup victory the year he was born, 1985, sealed what would become a lifelong commitment.

“I always say it this way,” the now 38-year-old said on Saturday from Blackpool, Lancashire: “I didn’t choose the Edmonton Oilers. The Edmonton Oilers picked me.”

Jericho is one of countless fans of Canadian hockey teams who are eagerly awaiting this year’s Stanley Cup Finals, which will feature the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets in addition to the Oilers. Since 2017, so many Canadian teams have failed to make the tournament. And Canada hasn’t claimed a Stanley Cup championship since 1993.

Jericho said that after his father’s death last year, he spent part of his inheritance on a vacation to attend four Oilers games this season.

“I hope they go to the extreme,” he said. “I’m real.”

Meanwhile, Bobby St. Laurent, who calls himself a diehard Jets fan and season ticket holder, will have to settle for watching Game 1 against the Colorado Avalanche on TV on Sunday night.

But don’t pity him; that’s because he and his girlfriend are at a resort in Cancun, Mexico.

“I’m going to party all day at the resort pool. And then I’ll be in my room at 6 p.m. to drop the puck and watch the whole game. I’ll probably order room service to the room and I’ll cheer on our Jets .”

“I have a Jets tank top that I’ll wear tomorrow, and I also have Jets shorts. I’m ready to go.’

St. Laurent, whose love affair with the Jets dates back to the 1970s when they were members of the World Hockey Association and he sold popcorn at their games at the Winnipeg Arena, said he will be back in town Tuesday night to catch Game 2 to look at. personal.

And he plans to take part in Winnipeg’s famous Whiteout celebrations, where thousands of fans gather in the city’s downtown for playoff games.

“I’m just a diehard Jets fan. I hope they go all out this year. I was cautiously optimistic earlier this year, but I’m starting to believe in it now.”

There was disappointment in the air Saturday night at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Square, where fans had gathered to watch their team’s playoff opener against the Boston Bruins. They lost 5-1 and will return to the ice on Monday.

Farther west, Aaron J. Harder, 44, of Vancouver, said many Canadian hockey fans have underestimated the Canucks.

“A lot of Canadian hockey fans didn’t understand how good the Canucks were,” he said. Until last year, “they just didn’t have the coaching to put it all together,” he argued.

Despite the strong showing of Canadian teams in the playoffs this year, Harder said the rivalry between the teams clouds any sense of unified, national pride in the achievement.

“I don’t think most hockey fans hear Canadian ‘Go Canada!’ They go with their team, which is part of the problem,” he said. “They’re not really for Canada because there’s so much tribalism among the hockey fans.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2024.

-with files from Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton.

Thomas MacDonald, The Canadian Press