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From 'rite of spring' to generational dream: Hockey historian Dave Stubbs talks Canada's legacy and the origins of the Stanley Cup

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NHL.com columnist and historian Dave Stubbs has chronicled the ups and downs of Canada’s Stanley Cup journey and the players who have hoisted the mighty trophy for years. He spoke to CTV Quebec Bureau Chief Genevieve Beauchemin about the last Canadian team to win the cup in 1993, the Montreal Canadiens, and what a hockey parade could mean for fans of the Edmonton Oilers.

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Genevieve Beauchemin:  What is the 1993 Stanley Cup Championship known for? What is its claim to fame?

Dave Stubbs: The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1993, and in Montreal and around North America, the big movie that was opening was Jurassic Park. I like to joke now saying that dinosaurs were actually roaming the earth the last time a Canadian team won the Cup, and I know that is a bit of a stretch, but that is the truth.

It was a very different time, obviously. It was a 24-team National Hockey league, it was the 24th NHL championship for the Montreal Canadiens. They probably had no business winning it -- they won ten overtime games -- Patrick Roy led the team. It was just astonishing.

The NHL was being realigned next season, and two new teams were joining. One was the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and the other was the Florida Panthers. So here we are now, we've come all those years later and the Florida Panthers are knocking on the door, possibly about ready to win their first Stanley Cup Championship.

Montreal Canadiens Ed Ronan (left) and Brian Bellows plant a kiss on the Stanley Cup after defeating the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 to win the Stanley Cup final in Montreal in this June 9, 1993 photo. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)

G.B.: The Canadiens had Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings to contend with.

D.S.: The fact is that Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy was doing what he did, St. Patrick as he was known at the time in Montreal, he had also as a rookie led the team to the 1986 championship. A lot of people thought the Canadiens were just going to repeat. And for a time in Montreal, certainly in the 1950's and in the 60's, and in the 70's, it was almost a rite of spring: you knew on which street corner you were going to go downtown to watch the parade.

Famously in the 1970's, during the Canadiens' run from 1976 to 1979, four straight Stanley Cups, then Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau issued a press release saying the Canadien Stanley Cup parade will follow the usual route. He wasn't being flippant, that was the way it was, you just knew the Canadiens were going to win. But here we are 31 years after the last win and we are still waiting in Canada, the Stanley Cup is just a rumour to a whole generation of Canadian hockey fans.

G.B.: Do you think that fans here took it for granted that there would be a return much sooner of the Stanley Cup in Canada?

D.S.: I think that there was almost something in the DNA of Canadians that the Stanley Cup is "ours", I mean it was gifted to this country by Governor General Lord Stanley of Preston in 1892 and it was really for the Dominion hockey championship, before the NHL existed. So yes, I think a lot of fans are a little tweaked about the fact that it has been this long since a canadian team has won, and I understand many Canadians feel we have been loaning the Stanley Cup as a sterling library book and it is long overdue and time to get it back.

Montreal Canadiens Guy LaFleur leads the rush over the boards followed by teammates (L-R) Yvon Lambert, Doug Risebrought, Mario Tremblay and Pierre Mondou as the Canadiens captured the Stanley Cup May 21, 1979, defeating the Rangers 4-1. (Chalie Palmer / The Canadian Press)

But if you look around the league, the passports in dressing rooms, it is amazing. in the 120-player six-team NHL, the so-called original six, most of those players were Canadian. Now there are about 740 players on 32 NHL teams, this season, there were at least eight Canadians playing on each team, so they are scattered around the league. Still, I think a lot of people across this country have been very energized and excited about the fact that the Edmonton Oilers are in the final.

G.B.: Are there a lot of fans now that would not necessarily have been pulling for the Oilers are now rallying behind them as Canada's team?

D.S.: I think any Canadian who has hockey in their blood would like to see Edmonton do well, whether or not they are cheering for them. I have spoken to a couple of former members of the Montreal Canadiens, Hall of Famers, and they are pulling for Florida. I won't name names, to protect them, but I think many Canadians, maybe not so many in Calgary because of the rivalry between the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, but a lot of Canadians now would like to see the Oilers do well.

I think if you're a Canadian it wouldn't be an awful thing for us to watch the Edmonton Oilers parade. There is something very special about having the Stanley Cup paraded through the streets of your city. They're in very tough now against a very determined, very motivated, very skilled team, the Panthers. But I think a lot of Canadians would love to see the Oilers have a really good strong run. 

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