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Maple Leafs, Jets, Oilers, Canucks carry Canada's Stanley Cup hopes with drought now 30 years old – KX NEWS

Maple Leafs, Jets, Oilers, Canucks carry Canada's Stanley Cup hopes with drought now 30 years old – KX NEWS

Vancouver Canucks players gather at center ice to raise their sticks to fans after defeating the Calgary Flames in the team's final regular season NHL hockey game on Tuesday, April 16, 2024 in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyke/The Canadian Press via AP)

Josh Morrissey remembers the city coming to life before his eyes.

A nine-year-old Flames fan in the spring of 2004, he was mesmerized by every chance Jarome Iginla and Mika Kiprosov blocked during Calgary's run to the Stanley Cup Final.

“It was just a great experience,” said Morrissey, now a star defensive tackle for the Winnipeg Jets. “Live and die by every win and loss.”

Hockey fans across Canada are once again preparing for the annual thrill and agony that comes with the playoffs. The Jets, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs are in the 16-team field that opens play on Saturday.

Morrissey remembers the energy in his city as the Flames advanced through three grueling innings to the final.

“That's the best part about Canadian teams doing well in the qualifiers… and that means a lot,” he told The Canadian Press. “A special time of year. The longer it goes, the more exciting. It can really mean a lot to cities. I know that when I was a kid, it meant a lot to me.”

The Canada Cup drought dates back to Montreal's 1993 victory, a long, painful time for fans in the country that loves hockey more than any other. The Canucks (twice), Flames, Oilers, Canadiens and Ottawa Senators have all reached the final since then but fallen short. The four Canadian clubs in this year's bracket are the most to have qualified in a regular season since 2017.

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Vancouver's Carson Soucy, who grew up near Edmonton, remembers the Oilers' run to the 2006 final.

“That's when they came out with flags from the car windows,” he said. “They were everywhere…and they were popular that year.”

Jets defenseman Brenden Dillon grew up a Canucks fan and was in town when the team lost to Boston in Game 7 of the 2011 Final.

“There's really nothing like a hockey game (in Canada),” he said. “Everyone is bonding together.”

Maple Leafs outfielder Simon Benoit, who grew up in the suburbs of Montreal, remembers watching the Canadiens make two playoff appearances when he was a kid.

“To get the opportunity here to play in that cup is very special,” he said of this opportunity with Toronto. “I'm very excited about it. When the time comes, I'll be ready.”

Canucks coach Rick Tocchet won the Cup as a player with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992. He said the team that brings home the hockey trophy will have bragging rights for a long time.

“It's going to be a hell of a party,” he said. “You could be Team Canada after the Stanley Cup. There's a lot at stake for the Canadian teams involved. As a Canadian, it could be huge. This will be the final, right?”

Like many Canadian fans over the past 30 years, Morrissey was bitterly disappointed when the Flames lost Game 7 to the Tampa Bay Lightning two decades ago.

“I remember being absolutely devastated,” he said.

But there were a lot of good times along the way.

“My friends and I from that era still talk about some of the games,” Morrissey continued. “She lives a long time.”

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The glow of a cup win will last a while longer.

___

AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL

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