The Calgary Flames have made an unexpected run in this year's playoffs and have reached the Stanley Cup Finals after not having made the playoffs at all the past seven years. A big deal is being made on the fact that this is their first Cup Final appearance in 15 years, since their win in 1989. Considering there are 30 teams in the league, though, that isn't really a long time; if the league were perfectly balanced, they'd be right on schedule.
Congrats to Calgary; good for them! It's good for the city and for Canadian hockey; it can only mean good things for what was previously the most troubled Canadian franchise in the league.
As good as it is, a dark spot deep inside me can't help being bitter. The Flames have had an awful time selling tickets, and the upper bowl of the stadium has been closed off for years, opening only at the start of these playoffs. The team reaches the post season again, and suddenly the bandwagon is overflowed, and they're rewarded with a berth in the Final and a chance at the Cup.
The Leafs were gawdawful back in the '80s, but still every game sold out. 1993 brought a return to competitiveness, and we threw them a massive party for falling an overtime goal short of reaching the final. Every season pumps blue and white through the veins of Torontonians, and every playoff game win brings horns and crowds filling the city streets. There are a lot of great hockey fans around the continent, but no team has fans more loyal, more devoted, more rabid, more numerous, or more stubbornly optimistic than the Maple Leafs.
37 years since their last win, and what do we have to show for it? Where is our reward? In the estate of Harold Ballard and the pockets of the Teachers Pension Plan. I don't know whether to be furious that our devotion has been used only for dollars for so many years, or humiliated that we can be duped so many times. It's like family; no matter how irresponsible they get, you keep the love flowing and hopefully they'll turn themselves around.