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Go Hockey Team

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Now that my beloved Buds are gone for the season, the Vancouver fans who have told me point blank that their favourite team is the Canucks and whoever is playing the Leafs, are expecting me to root for Vancouver.

I’m torn, and I’ll tell you why.

First, it would be nice to have the cup come back to Canada. After losing a couple teams in the last decade, and struggling to compete with powerhouse payrolls like Dallas, Colorado and Detroit, the 2003 Stanley Cup race is wide open. And who, really, wants the Cup to go back to New Jersey? Or to Disneyland?

Minnesota is a slightly different story, and that’s because they also lost a team once, and they play almost as much hockey in those parts as we do in Canada.

But let me ask you this – If I cheered for Vancouver, would I be cheering for a Canadian team, or for Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment? Did I ever cheer for the Leafs, or was it always Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.? If you’re rooting for a corporation anyway, then who do you root for – The one with the best environmental record and employee benefits, or the one in your home town?

Greed is ruining the game. Once upon a time the only relationship that mattered was between the players and the fans.

Although this year is an exception, these days it’s all about money – what owners have it, and how badly they can raid the rosters of losing teams before the trade deadline. Every hockey hero, from Gretzky to Messier, is for sale to the highest bidder, the only exceptions being those few players who move teams so they can have one last shot at the Cup.

Team owners say that 18 NHL franchises will lose money this year, and owners and general managers will likely be pushing for salary caps and luxury taxes when the NHL Player’s Association contract with the league expires in 2004. That will probably result in a strike, a lock-out, and quite possibly a lost season of hockey.

So who do I cheer for (understanding that it’s still up in the air for the Canucks and Wild at press time)?

To be patriotic, I could go with Canadian content and root for the team with the most Canadians on its roster.

Vancouver has 14 Canadian starters. The New Jersey Devils have 13, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks have 13, and Ottawa has 12. The upstart Minnesota Wild lead the way 15 Canadians, including (pause for effect) five hard-core B.C. boys – three more than the Canucks have.

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