As you may have heard, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night; their third championship title since entering the league in 1992-93. The Lightning have been one of the most successful franchises since their inaugural season by almost any measure, and they’ve been especially good for the last four seasons. As far as sports fandom goes, you could do a lot worse than being a diehard Bolts fan.
The Ottawa Senators also broke into the NHL in 1992-93, and though there have been some close calls along the way the team has never brought home the ultimate prize. There was a moment in time in the early 2000’s where it seemed like a Sens championship was more of an eventuality than a probability but, alas, here we are in 2021 and still no Cup to celebrate. As far as sports fandom goes, you could do a lot worse than being a Sens fan — but you could also have saved yourself a bit of grief if you’d just elected to cheer for Tampa twenty-nine years ago.
When Ottawa set out on its latest rebuild, the bargain the team made with the fans at the time was that short-term suffering was necessary to assure long-term success. You may recall mention of Five Years of Unparalleled Success. The team’s been in the business of selling hope for several years now, and part of that hope is that we’ll get to see a parade on Bank Street one day (or should it be Elgin? These are the types of things we can debate when the team is good again).
As a masochist, and a writer for this site, I’ve watched probably close to 95% of the team’s games since the 2017-18 season. This past season was the first time in that span that I thoroughly enjoyed most games even though the team had no hope of winning anything meaningful. For the first three years of the rebuild, the hope of eventually winning the Cup, or at least contending for it, was a huge part of what kept me going. I’m not saying that after this year I don’t still cling to that hope, I’d do a lot to see a Finals game at the CTC, but I’ve started to entertain the possibility that my Sens fandom could be fulfilling even without a championship.
In the modern sports world, and particularly in the modern sports media world, there’s an attitude of “championship or bust”. Basketball fans refer to it as “RINGZZZZ”. I want the Sens to be a good team because cheering for a good team is a lot of fun. I want to attend play-off games and never actually have my butt touch the seat. I want to be able to puff my chest out when I walk around Toronto with my Sens sweater on. But I think I’ll be OK even if Ottawa never wins it all. I don’t long to be a Tampa Bay fan, even if they do seem to be really having a blast these days.
So this week’s question, then: does it matter to you, as a fan, if the Sens ever win the Stanley Cup? Not would you like it to happen, but does it really, deeply matter in a way that affects your fandom? Let us know what you think in the comments!