Edmonton Oilers' heartbreak extends Canada's Stanley Cup drought to 31 years

Oilers players react after their loss
Oilers players react after their lossProfimedia
Canadians woke up on Tuesday scratching their heads in disbelief as the Edmonton Oilers' 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers in a winner-take-all game extended the hockey-obsessed nation's Stanley Cup drought to 31 years.

For this year's Stanley Cup Final, NHL fans across Canada put aside historical club rivalries in favour of supporting an Edmonton team that featured 24 Canadian-born players on their 34-man roster, including human highlight reel Connor McDavid.

After losing the first three games of the best-of-seven Final, McDavid's Oilers pushed the series to its limit but were ultimately unable to pull off an improbable comeback on Monday.

Not since the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs has an NHL team won the Stanley Cup after falling behind 3-0 in the championship round. The Oilers are the first team since 1945 to even force a Game Seven after falling behind 3-0 in the Final.

The Panthers celebrate their win
The Panthers celebrate their winReuters

"Well done, @EdmontonOilers. What an incredible run. You brought the country together in a way that only a great hockey team can," Canadian Prime Minister and Montreal Canadiens fan Justin Trudeau said on X following Monday's game.

Since Montreal won the Stanley Cup in 1993 there have been seven instances of Canadian teams in the Final but each fell short of the ultimate prize: Edmonton (2024, 2006), Vancouver (2011, 1994), Montreal (2021), Ottawa (2007) and Calgary (2004).

Throughout the 2024 Final, a Canadian telecom company ran a commercial that opened with the words "Dear Stanley," on screen along with images of past Oilers highlights before the phrase "It's time to come home." appeared over a Canadian flag.

But even the support of a nation was not enough for an Oilers team that got a Herculean effort for McDavid, who became only the sixth player from a losing team to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs.

"It's an honour with the names on that trophy," said McDavid, who set an NHL record for most assists in a single postseason, with 34, and added eight goals in 25 games.

The Edmonton Journal's front-page headline on Tuesday read "No Joy in Oil Town" while the Edmonton Sun went with "Rats!", a nod to a Panthers team that earned a rodent connection after a former player exterminated one in their dressing room with the same stick he scored two goals with later that day in 1995.

Kris Knoblauch, who took over as head coach in November when the Oilers were 31st in a 32-team league took little solace in getting the franchise one win away from its first Stanley Cup since 1990.

"It hurts. It's more painful but I definitely would not have wanted to lose in four games," said Knoblauch. "I liked how our team responded and pushed. We were so close. We lost to a good team."


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