After much anticipation, some false starts, and a fair amount of hand-wringing, it appears all systems are go for the NHL to return to play the rest of the 2019-20 season:
Hearing both NHL and NHLPA have voted to accept CBA/Return to Play protocols.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 10, 2020
That means that 24 teams, not including your Ottawa Senators, will be participating in the chase for the Stanley Cup. That the Sens didn’t qualify for this year’s post-season tournament should come as no surprise to anyone that’s been paying attention: this team was not going to be good, and if they wanted to be good in the future they were better served by, in fact, being bad this season. Being a fan of this year’s edition of the Senators involved finding things to cheer for that weren’t just wins and losses. We cheered for the development of the youngsters, we cheered for some heart-warming stories, and we definitely cheered for good draft picks. It felt a bit strange to have the season climax at the draft lottery, but the hope is that we will have a good team to cheer for in due course. These are the “sacrifices” of modern sports fandom.
So with all this practice cheering for things other than Sens wins during the regular season, we move now to the post-season. For many fans, if their team isn’t participating then they’re not watching. To that I say: fair enough. Fandom is suffering enough as it is, no need to suffer on behalf of two teams. But for the others that will be watching this year’s modified championship run, I bring this question: will you pick a team to cheer for?
I’m not normally one to actively cheer for any team other than the Sens, but I made an exception last year when the San Jose Sharks went on their run; I still have a soft spot for Erik Karlsson and would have derived great joy from watching him lift Lord Stanley’s mug. It was maybe the first time I could say I was truly disappointed to see a team other than Ottawa eliminated. When the Winnipeg Jets ascended to the Conference Finals I was happy to jump on the bandwagon because they were playing a particularly exciting brand of hockey, but when they lost I had moved on within 2 minutes of turning off the TV.
I have mixed feelings about the play-offs happening at all given the state of the world, but I do understand why the NHL is giving it a try. I sincerely hope there are no negative consequences to doing so. I might even tune into a game or two, but I don’t think I’ll have a rooting interest.
So, then, what about the rest of the readers? Is there a team you’d throw yourself behind? Are you a fan of supporting Canadian teams? Do you need to have a rooting interest to follow along? Or is the suggestion alone heresy, would you never betray Ottawa? Let us know in the comments section!