Which team best represents Canada in this season’s NHL playoffs — the high-flying, Northwest Division-winning Vancouver Canucks or the plucky underdog, steeped-in-tradition Montreal Canadiens. QMI Agency’s Paul Friesen and Scott Fisher duke it out to determine what side Joe Canadian (or is that Johnny Canuck?) should throw his loyalties behind.
FISHER: The Montreal Canadiens have always been Canada’s team. Nothing has changed.
FRIESEN: Are you kidding? You must still be wearing bell-bottoms, too, Fisher. That may have been true 30 years ago, but the Habs of today are nothing like the Habs of yesteryear.
FISHER: No one said they’re still the Flying Frenchmen. But they’re still Canada’s team.
FRIESEN: Try the Fumbling Frenchmen. Montreal dropped the ball on this long ago. And the Vancouver Canucks are ready to scoop it up.
FISHER: The Canucks? You must be joking. The Leafs, as bad as they are today, are the only other team that could rightfully make a claim to be Canada’s team. But the Canucks? Please.
FRIESEN: At least the Canucks play like Canadians. Rough-and-tumble hockey. Ranked fifth this season in penalty minutes and second in goals. That’s hockey!
FISHER: Yeah, the Sedin sisters are a couple of tough customers. Throwing guys like Darcy Hordichuk over the boards to drop the mitts hardly makes the Canucks Canada’s team.
FRIESEN: And what, exactly, makes the Canadiens Canada’s team right now? Tiny Yanks like Gionta and Gomez?
FISHER: The same thing that has ALWAYS made them Canada’s team. A rich tradition of winning. The Habs have 24 Cups. The Canucks don’t have one.
FRIESEN: Yeah, but half of Canada HATES the Habs, FISHER. The Canucks offer a fresh, new face for everybody to get behind.
FISHER: That’s true. Half of the fans do hate the Habs. But the other half loves them. The Canadiens’ fanbase stretches from coast to coast. Vancouver’s doesn’t leave the B.C. border.
FRIESEN: Are you kidding? I saw at least two Canucks jerseys at Manitoba Moose games this season.
FISHER: Ha! OK, there are two ‘Nucks fans outside of B.C. But the Habs almost have home-ice advantage in every Canadian rink they visit. Especially out west — and that includes Vancouver!
FIRESEN: But the Habs divide Canada, not unite it. Gilles Duceppe says they’re not Canada’s team, but Quebec’s!
FISHER: Who cares what Duceppe has to say? Does anyone listen to that guy? It’s Duceppe that tries to divide Canada — not the Habs.
FRIESEN: My point is simply that the Habs are hated as much as they’re loved. Vancouver’s history carries no such baggage. We don’t even know if the Habs will always be part of Canada. The Canucks’ time has come.
FISHER: Vancouver’s history? What history? The good ‘ol days with Pavel Bure? Or way, way back when King Richard was between the pipes? That’s not history. That’s the recent past. You’re dead wrong about the Habs not always being a part of Canada. Their name is the ‘Canadiens,’ for crying out loud! And the Canucks will never replace them.
FRIESEN: I’m not saying the Canucks will ever come close to Montreal’s incredible tradition, or even its national following. But they’re a better pick as Canada’s team right now for one reason: They have a far better chance of actually winning the Stanley Cup.