Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Prime Minister Harper Pledges To Bring Future Game Sevens To Canada

Monday night the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in Game 7 to capture the Stanley Cup. With the Oilers’ defeat, Canadian teams still have not won the Cup since the Montreal Canadiens did so in 1993. Like millions of his fellow countrymen, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is tired of seeing victory celebrations south of the border. Seeing what a difference the home ice advantage can make, Harper has vowed to reverse the drought by bringing future game sevens to Canada.

This year marked the third time since 1993 that a Canadian team dropped game 7 in the finals. On each occasion, the decisive contest took place in the United States. The New York Rangers topped the Vancouver Canucks in 1994, and the Tampa Bay Lightning bested the Calgary Flames in 2004. In each case, the home team was the one with the better record during the season. However, Harper feels that for a city to host a game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals, at least five percent of its citizens should have some idea of what icing is.

Harper took office in February after his Conservative Party came to power in the House of Commons. The Conservatives’ campaign strategy was primarily based on blaming the ruling Liberal Party for failing to keep the Stanley Cup in Canada. Conservatives pointed out that when the Liberals and new Prime Minister Jean Chretien gained control in November 1993, Montreal was the reigning champion. Canadian teams had won eight of the previous ten Stanley Cup titles. However, Chretien was ineffectual in countering President Clinton’s aggressive strategy to return the Cup to the United States. Reportedly, the president was furious that consecutive World Series had been won by Toronto and vowed vengeance on his northern neighbors. Later asked if he were responsible for the Quebec Nordiques’ move to Colorado, Clinton responded, “That depends on what your definition of ‘move’ is.”

Prime Minister Harper, a Calgary Flames fan, vows to take stronger action on the issue. He is particularly rankled that in each of the past two finals, a team from the southeastern United States has triumphed over one from Alberta. “Look at the Carolina Hurricanes’ roster,” he bristled. “Canadians all over the place, and not one guy from the Carolinas! So why should Raleigh get game 7?” He further complained that not only do North Carolinians mispronounce “Roy,” but they believe it is the first name of a college basketball coach, rather than the last name of a legendary goaltender.

Harper has appealed to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to change the home ice rules in favor of Canadian franchises. Under the prime minister’s proposal, no U.S. team could host game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals against a Canadian opponent. Bettman is not very popular in Canada, but the prime minister knows that he must work with the commissioner to achieve his objectives. Harper promises not to call Bettman “Keyser Soze,” despite his resemblance to Kevin Spacey. The prime minister may even offer the commissioner a cabinet position, although Bettman is not a Canadian citizen. Insiders believe that Bettman would be an excellent choice as the Minister of Penalty Boxes.

The Canadian leader may have some surprising support from his U.S. counterpart. Reports have surfaced that President Bush wanted Edmonton to defeat Carolina. White House officials denied these claims, noting the president’s unwavering patriotism. However, the reports are widely believed to be true, since Bush has proven to be far more responsive to Oilers than to Hurricanes.

It remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Harper will be able to bring game sevens to Canada. If he is successful, he will be a national hero. Canadian hockey fans love a guy who converts on a power play.