Why there is no such thing as ‘Canada’s team’.

With a Canadian team poised to win the Stanley Cup, I feel it is incumbent upon me to comment on their joyous occasion.

Except, I can’t. I’ve been told by my sons and approximately 187,253 online comments that the Vancouver Canucks are the most despicable group of thugs, Neanderthals, foreigners and cheats since the Philadelphia Flyers in the Broad Street Bullies days, and that a Canucks Stanley Cup win will be, without hyperbole, The Worst Thing Ever To Happen In World History.

OK, I’ll buy that. The Sedin twins are some sort of mutant creation from a Swedish Ikea lab. Alex Burrows is a cannibal. Raffi Torres is a coward and a cheap shot artist (except when he played for the Oilers, at which time he was feisty and courageous). And Ryan Kesler is the worst …he’s an AMERICAN, who actually said, while playing for Team U.S.A. during the Olympics, that he “hates” Canadian hockey players. Vancouver fans are arrogant and obnoxious, and will abandon the team the first time they put together a three-game losing streak.

I’ve heard it all before, and it’s all true.

So, no, I do not want the Canucks to win the Stanley Cup. But then, if the Vancouver Canucks were comprised entirely of Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky clones, I still wouldn’t want them to win.

You see, there’s really no such thing as Canada’s team. Most Canadian hockey fans do NOT want a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, unless it’s THEIR Canadian team.

How could that be? Don’t we all want to see the Stanley Cup return to Canada? Well, maybe once upon a time it was a important that the Stanley Cup remain unsullied, but let’s face it. The cup has won by teams based in North Carolina, Florida, California, Texas and — shudder — New Jersey. It’s pretty much tainted goods now.

But isn’t it better that the cup is won by a Canadian team?

Depends on the city, and the team.

I don’t want Vancouver to win, because they’ve already got everything. A gorgeous city, worldwide acclaim, a successful Olympics, virtually no winter. Vancouver winning the Stanley Cup would be like Daryl Katz winning Lotto 6-49.

I never want Calgary to win a Stanley Cup again. It was bad enough that they won one; it look me years to get over that. When Calgary was in the Stanley Cup finals a few years back, I cheered when they lost. I will, as a born and bred Edmontonians, always cheer against Calgary. It’s in my DNA, and will never change.

I never, ever, EVER want Toronto to win the Stanley Cup. I get antsy when it looks like they might even make the playoffs. If the Centre of the Universe were to ever win another Stanley Cup, the combined boosterism of TSN, CBC, Sportsnet, CTV and Macleans would force me to move to another country. CBC would commission a made-for-TV movie (“Triumph of Leaf Nation!”), and at least a dozen commemorative books would be published. Nope, I couldn’t stand that.

But it’s not all negative.

I wouldn’t mind if Montreal won a Stanley Cup or two. Yes, I’m aware they’ve won 1,862 Stanley Cups, but I’ve always admired the class of the organization, their history, and their uniforms. And Montreal is a cool city.

I could live with Ottawa winning a Stanley Cup. Nice city, and an organization that came so close to being a contender for so many years, I almost feel sorry for them.

And now that Winnipeg is back in the NHL where it belongs, I’m a fan. I don’t know anything about the team except that it’s pretty bad, but I know what it would mean to a small Prairie city to win the Holy Grail. So, go Jets (and don’t go with a different name…Jets is the name. Period.)

And as for Edmonton, I hope they win lots and lots of Stanley Cups. Or at least one more before I shuffle off this mortal coil. But I’m sure, if the Oilers (stifle laughter here) get back to the cup final, there will be a lot of people cheering for them across the country, and large numbers who would rather see Nashville win a Stanley Cup before Edmonton.

That’s the Canadian way. We have our jealousies, our allegiances, or tribal hatreds. So, go Bruins, I guess. And go Jets.

Oiler cheerleaders? Sis, boom, blah.

Last week, word emerged that the Edmonton Oilers will become the first Canadian NHL team to have cheerleaders at their games.

Now in Edmonton, where anything the Oilers do becomes front page news (“Dump was ‘epic’, Hall says. Oiler future star credits Mexican restaurant for bowel movement ‘for the ages’.”) and fodder for thousands of on-line comments, this has become reasonably big news.

Cheerleaders are not unknown in the NHL. Cheerleaders exist in 23 of 30 NHL arenas, according to the Oilers. I suspect in a lot of U.S. cities, adding cheerleaders makes it look like there are more than 5,000 fans in the stands; they probably use them to pad their attendance statistics. But here in Canada, where hockey tickets are prized, we prefer our hockey pure and unsullied by distractions like underdressed gyrating cheerleaders; after all, that would distract us from the serious business of discussing plus-minus statistics.

Oiler president Patrick LaForge says the cheerleaders will “enhance the in-game experience” (is there an out-of-game experience?). In that regard, I can’t complain. I haven’t been to an Oilers game for years, but my recollection of the “in-game experience” was that it approximated that of a lively funeral. Sure, the Oilers do what they can: endless distractions on the video screen, and wretched music played at high decibels. But Edmonton fans (outside of the playoffs, as some of you may recall) are notoriously quiet. We take our hockey so seriously, we tend to suck the fun right out of the game. So in that regard, maybe a few cheerleaders isn’t such a bad thing.

After all, cheerleaders have a long tradition in sports. They originated in football, apparently way back in 1898. It was somewhat more sedate in those days. A “cheerful personage” would tap a fellow fan on the shoulder, and inquire: “Pardon me, dear sir, but would you care to join me in a rousing ‘huzzah’ for the home team?” In time, women were recruited to lead the cheers, but that experiment nearly came to an end in 1913 at the Princeton versus Harvard game when a “cheerleaderette” inadvertently flashed some ankle, resulting in a near riot. (I am, of course, making this up.)

Cheerleading today varies from city to city. Here in Edmonton, the Eskimos have opted for an athletic troupe that does a lot of quite impressive, college style stunts. This is an evolution from earlier Eskimo cheerleaders, who were hired more for their measurements (anybody remember ‘second chick from the left’?) than their athletic abilities. Please note I said ‘evolution’, not necessarily ‘improvement’.

The National Basketball Association has cheer teams, which, as I could see from a few clips on YouTube, are somewhat more R-rated. And by that I mean skanky.

Potential Oiler cheerleaders won’t be able to do the kind of act you see in the NBA. For starters, they can’t go on the ice, although that would provide hilarious entertainment. Cheerleaders would be restricted to the stairs, which would limit their movements appreciably. The stairs at Rexall are very narrow, with barely enough room for one fat guy at a time. This would also bring hot (we hope), undulating, tightly and/or scantily clad females in close proximity to 25-year-old rig pigs from Fort McMurray who have just spent $50 on beer and will expect something in return other than another putrid Oiler performance. Hey, nothing can go wrong there.

I’m a traditionalist in just about everything — I am old, after all — so I’m opposed to Oiler cheerleaders. The best way the Oilers could enhance the “in-game experience” is to provide a winning team that might actually get the fans to rise out of their too-small seats to cheer. Cheerleaders are no substitute for a winning team.