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Monday, May 31, 2010
If you are fortunate enough to be a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks or Philadelphia Flyers, then your rooting interest in the Stanley Cup Final should be obvious. However, for fans of the other 28 teams in the National Hockey League, who to root for is not so cut and dry.
In previous seasons, there have been sentimental favorites playing for their first Stanley Cup, with the most obvious case being Raymond Bourque with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 (unless, like my "Hossa Curse" colleague, you are a New Jersey Devils fan). The closest this Final has to a sentimental favorite is Flyers warrior Ian Laperriere, who has been in the league for sixteen years and is playing in his first final.
As a fan of the New York Rangers, this matchup provides an interesting dilemma. The Flyers are one of the Rangers most-hated rivals, but the Blackhawks, who have gone 49 years without a Cup, are approaching the NHL record for most consecutive years (54) without a Cup, a record currently held by the Rangers.
The case against rooting for the Flyers is actually two-fold. First, since it is fresh on the brain of any Rangers fan, is the fact that the Flyers run to the Stanley Cup Final began with a shootout win in a winner-take-all game against the Rangers on the final day of the regular season. Second, of course, is the rivalry itself and the playoff history between the two teams. The Rangers and Flyers have been in the same division since 1974, and have met ten times in the playoffs, with the Flyers winning six times. The Rangers-Flyers rivalry was at its peak in the nine-year stretch from 1979 to 1987, when the two teams met in the playoffs every year, except for 1981 and 1984. The Flyers have ended the Rangers season in the playoffs six times, including twice with a Stanley Cup Final berth on the line (1974, 1997). Five of the six times the Flyers have beaten the Rangers in the playoffs, they advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
The case against rooting for the Blackhawks focuses on their cup drought, which goes back to 1961. The Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994 to end their drought at 54 years, but that mark is still the longest stretch, active or historical, without a Cup for any franchise. While the record is not very damning, it is still a mark of futility that some Rangers fans would rather see held by another franchise. At first, it appeared the Detroit Red Wings might lay claim to the record, but their drought ended in 1997 at 42 years, with a sweep in the Stanley Cup Final of, you guessed it, the Flyers.
In terms of former Rangers on their rosters, the Blackhawks and Flyers are both thin in that regard. The only former Ranger on the Blackhawks is defenseman Kim Johnsson, who is currently out with a concussion. The Flyers have two former Rangers, forwards Blair Betts and Laperriere.
In the end, the choice for the Rangers fan is pretty simple: Root for the Blackhawks. The Flyers will always be a hated rival. There should be no problem rooting for Marian Hossa, too, since he spurned the Penguins, another one of our rivals. Plus, what are the odds that the Los Angeles Kings, Saint Louis Blues, and Toronto Maple Leafs will all win a Stanley Cup before 2022?