Preparing to witness history north of the border

Here’s a fun fact: the last time a team fell behind three games to none in the National Hockey League’s best-of-seven championship final and then came back to win was in 1942.

The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped the first three games of the finals to the Detroit Red Wings that year, but stormed back to win four straight and capture the coveted Stanley Cup. The score of the last game, which was played before a record crowd of 16,218 fans at Maple Leaf Gardens on April 18th, was 3-1.

Nineteen forty-two was a long time ago. Gordie Howe’s 14th birthday had occurred 18 days prior to the Leafs’ game seven victory. Bobby Orr hadn’t been born yet. Wayne Gretzky’s dad-to-be hadn’t started kindergarten, and his future mom had just turned seven months old.

Until this past Monday, the last Canadian-based team to win the Stanley Cup was the 1993 Montreal Canadiens. That was before the NHL's top two current Canadian- born superstars, Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon, were born. Nineteen ninety-three was also the last time a team comprised of all North American-born players constituted a league champion. Three of Canada’s seven current NHL teams, the Winnipeg Jets, the Vancouver Canucks, and the modern-day edition of the Ottawa Senators, have never hoisted the Stanley Cup, not even once.

This year’s Stanley Cup finals began on June 8th, when the Florida Panthers, the NHL’s southernmost franchise, beat the northernmost one, the Edmonton Oilers, 3- 0. The Panthers won games two and three as well, all but assuring themselves of the team’s first-ever championship.

The desperate Oilers staved off elimination by winning Game 4 at their home rink in Alberta. They subsequently took games five and six as well, setting up a one- game, winner-take-all finale that took place this past Monday in Sunrise, Florida. By happy coincidence my son and I were nowhere nearFlorida last week. And by an even happier coincidence, we found ourselves traveling through the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Like seemingly everyone around us, we were caught up in the excitement, and decided to take in the broadcast of the potentially history-making seventh game amongst locals eager to see Canada’s long championship drought finally come to an end.

Here’s yet another fun fact: Newfoundland and Labrador wasn’t even an official part of the Canadian confederation when the Maple Leafs staged their comeback from three games down against the Red Wings in 1942. It didn’t become an actual province of the Dominion of Canada until midnight on March 31, 1949.

My son and I went to the pub inside the St. John’s hotel where we were staying to have a late dinner, prepared to watch the game, which didn’t start until nearly 10 PM local time, surrounded by a slew of hockey-mad Newfoundlanders.

There were four other people in the place when we got there, all of whom were sitting at the bar. Only one of them was actually watching the game, and he was doing so in utter silence. When we finished dinner and retired to our room after the first period the score was tied, 1-1.

The Panthers scored another goal midway through the second period to regain the lead. A couple of minutes later, struggling to keep my eyes open, I announced I was going to bed. My equally-groggy son wordlessly shut the TV off and did the same.

We woke Tuesday morning to this final fun fact: the last time a team fell behind three games to none in the National Hockey League’s best-of-seven championship final and came back to win is still 1942.


Andy Young
June 25, 2024

Return to main page
Font size: