Serge Savard is telling the truth. That no Canadian National League team has managed to win the Stanley Cup in three decades is almost unimaginable. We tell ourselves that it has to happen for a reason. The 10 potential causes listed by my colleague Stéphane Cadorette are relevant. What we can add is that the face of the NHL has changed completely since 1993. The league is no longer exclusive to Canada. Not just on the ice, in its management too.
The process began with the great expansion of 1967. The number of teams established in the United States grew from four to ten at once. It was a taste of free trade.
The owners of these formations have gradually taken their place in the operations of the circuit. Power shifted when the NHL's offices were moved from Montreal to New York upon the retirement of Clarence Campbell in 1977.
The league transformed into an American company from that moment.
Bill Wirtz of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins and Ed Snider of the Philadelphia Flyers were the most influential governors.
Everything went through them.< /p>
The owners of the Canadiens and Leafs no longer held the power.
Alan Eagleson, executive director of the NHL Players Association and organizer of international tournaments involving league players, was the master of the hockey on Canadian territory.
Internationalization and commercialization
At the same time, the pool of players was internationalizing, which led to a gradual change in the identity of the teams.
The Scandinavians arrived, then the Slavs who had to desert their country to play in the biggest hockey league in the world.
The Soviet Union began to allow veterans of its national team to move west. The fall of the Berlin Wall broke the last borders.
It is without forgetting the enormous progress of the Americans and the advances of the Swiss and the Germans.
The NHL compares to the Premier League in football. The composition of the teams is cosmopolitan. The Canadiens are no longer the club that was founded to bring together French-speaking players.
Another decisive step in the transformation of the NHL came when Gary Bettman was made commissioner. The league has marketed itself like never before.
Even though we don't carry the little Napoleon of hockey in our hearts, the circuit's revenues have gone from $400 million to $5.7 billion under his reign.
The figure would be well over six billion, were it not for COVID which caused amphitheaters to be closed for an extended period.
For this which is the perception of the players towards the Canadian teams, things evolved with the repechage. Players got to know other markets.
It is not yesterday that players prefer palm trees to sloches. In the 1970s, Rogatien Vachon and Marcel Dionne liked the mild climate of Los Angeles. Carol Vadnais, Gilles Meloche and Joe Hardy loved living in Oakland, even though the California Golden Seals didn't win often.
Still, there's something to be offended about players have a clause included in their contract stipulating that they do not want to pursue a career in Canada due, in particular, to the pressure and omnipresence of the media. It is nice to say that players are not all created equal, these factors are part of the job.
Do Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield seem unhappy in Montreal?
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, Samuel Montembeault and Mike Matheson are happy as kings there.
The Canadiens and the Leafs are at the NHL what the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers are to baseball, the Giants, Cowboys and Patriots to American football, the Celtics and Lakers to basketball.
Players who played of the great teams of the Canadian will tell you that the interest of the fans and the media helped them to perform well. They were paid to play hockey and they gave themselves body and soul to their profession and their team. They considered themselves privileged to earn a living in the sport they loved so much.
Today, it's all business and it starts when players destined to play in the National League have agents from 14-15 years old.
We are elsewhere.