Montreal’s ’93 Stanley Cup champs watching as Edmonton can end Canada’s title drought

The Montreal Canadiens pose for a photograph with the Stanley Cup following their 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Montreal in this June 9, 1993 photo. (Frank Gunn/CP)

SUNRISE, Fla. — When members of the 1993 Montreal Canadiens gathered for a reunion to commemorate 30 years since they won the Stanley Cup, they told stories and reminisced about the championship run.

Vincent Damphousse, their leading scorer that postseason, had plenty to share but also had forgotten so much. It has, after all, been three decades since he and his teammates defeated Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings to lift the Cup for the franchise’s NHL-record 24th time.

Not only has Montreal not won it again since, but neither has any other team based in Canada — a drought the Edmonton Oilers can end at 31 years by winning Game 7 at the Florida Panthers on Monday night. 

“It’s our sport and it’s important for a Canadian team to do well,” Damphousse told The Associated Press by phone over the weekend. “Look at the city, look at the country. Everybody’s watching, and it keeps everybody engaged and watching games.”

This is by far the longest stretch between Canadian Cup wins. Before this, it was a six-year span between the Montreal Maroons in 1935 and the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942, who the Oilers are looking to follow as the only teams to go down 3-0 in a final and come all the way back.

“This series has been great for hockey,” said Brian Bellows, who was tied as Montreal’s third-leading scorer with 15 points in 20 games during the ‘93 playoffs. “Everyone loves a Game 7.”

The 1972 Miami Dolphins, as the only NFL team to complete a perfect season and win it all, have a tradition of popping bottles of sparkling wine to celebrate each year when the last remaining undefeated team loses. Nothing of the sort happens for the ’93 Habs.

Damphousse, now an ambassador for the Canadiens, feels for those north of the 49th parallel who have not drank from the Cup.

“They’re tough markets to be successful in,” Damphousse said. “It’s been tough. There have been rebuilds and good years and bad years and I’m hoping for a success story in Canada, for sure. I don’t wish any bad luck on the Canadian teams.”

It has been a string of bad luck and many other things, including near-misses. Four times since, a Canadian team reached Game 7 and lost, including Vancouver the next year against the New York Rangers, followed by Calgary to Tampa Bay in 2004, Edmonton to Carolina in ‘06 and the Canucks getting back and falling short at home against Boston in ’11.

Kirk Muller, who was second in scoring to Damphousse in the regular season and playoffs in ’93, would have been stunned at the time to think that no one from Canada would have won it all in the next 31 years.

“Obviously, you’re living in the moment and all that, but certainly everybody’s aware of the drought that it’s been,” Muller said. “You can see the excitement in the country right now, and you can see how quickly it just magnifies across the excitement and you can see that happening in Edmonton right now.”

The excitement is in anticipation of what would be the Oilers’ sixth Stanley Cup championship but the first since 1990, a run of five titles in seven years in which the trophy pretty much lived in Canada. Edmonton won in ‘84, ‘85, ’87, ’88 and ‘90, Montreal in ’86 and Calgary in ’89.

Back then, Canada had seven of the NHL’s 21 teams. It’s now seven of 32, which along with several other factors explains the dry spell. Damphousse pointed to the salary cap as one impediment, including the tax ramifications compared to some U.S. states that lead to some players asking for more money to compensate and handle the pressure of being in a Canadian market where hockey is such a focal point.

“Guys are making a bit more to stay on those teams compared to Florida, to Tampa, to Dallas or even Vegas, where there’s different tax (rules),” he said. “I think that’s what makes it a bit more difficult for the Canadian teams.”

The Oilers have so far been able to build a contender around Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, though the latter of their two cornerstones has just one year left on his contract and major questions await no matter the result.

Until then, Muller has been enjoying taking it all in from afar as an assistant coach with Washington.

“I’ve watched lot of playoffs this year,” Muller said “You’re always looking to get better and why are these two teams in the finals and what do they do well that can help your team? And then just purely as a fan, I think the series has been really exciting and I think the playoffs have been really good.”

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