It happens every time around this time of year (2016 excepted): Canadian media tries to anoint the last remaining Canadian team as Canada’s Team. The logic being that since Canada hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993, all Canadians should be cheering for a Canadian team to bring the Cup home. That narrative is always greeted by a huge backlash, by people including me. People point out things like the 2011 Bruins had more Canadian players than the 2011 Canucks, so how do you pick one as Canada’s Team? Besides, I’d never cheer for the Canadiens or Maple Leafs at this point.
The thing is, it’s been a long time since I was in this position. As a fan of the Ottawa Senators, we haven’t had the opportunity to be Canada’s team since 2007. Back then Twitter was in its infancy, and people couldn’t just spew whatever opinion they want online. Now? We have PM Justin Trudeau saying everyone should cheer for Ottawa (and yes, I am quoted in a article in which Trudeau is also quoted #famous), and people ranting about how much they hate Ottawa’s boring style. (Which, you know, lights up the Penguins 5-1. But I digress.)
But here’s the thing: I really don’t care. If people want to cheer for Ottawa, that’s great. I’m happy to have more fans on board. If people refuse to, that’s fine. It’s fun being the villain for the first time in a long time. But we don’t need the support of a nation with us. It’s actually fun to be a Sens fan right now. The team is winning. And whether you want to love, hate, or ignore us for it, it’s still fun. Everything feels good. It’s nice to be noticed as a fan of the team that often feels the most forgotten in the NHL.
Are the Sens Canada’s Team? No, because Canada’s Team doesn’t exist. It’s a made-up notion designed to get people to read articles as the most popular teams are eliminated from the playoffs. But keep in mind that if you refuse to cheer for Ottawa, we don’t care. The Sens are our team, and they’re playing in the Conference Finals. They’re leading in the Conference Finals. I don’t need validation from anyone else.