A finals primer
The finals are upon us. Both the NBA and NHL championships will be decided over the course of the next couple of weeks. In one league, you’ve got the great Canadian hope taking on the great American dynasty, whereas in the other league, you’ve got two very solid American cities squaring off to claim a professional sports championship for the fourth time this century.
Interestingly enough, there is no Canadian team playing for the Stanley Cup. No, the team from Canada still playing is the NBA’s Toronto Raptors who are facing the Golden State Warriors. Toronto’s hockey franchise, the Maple Leafs, bowed out to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. They are currently locked in a 1–1 struggle with the St. Louis Blues to decide who drinks from Lord Stanley’s giant silver chalice. As you may know, no Canadian team has even reached the hockey finals since 2011, which was also the last time the Bruins won the cup. The Vancouver Canucks were the team they defeated. The last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup was the Montreal Canadians in 1993. As for Toronto’s hockey franchise, their last Stanley Cup win was in 1967, so it has been a while.
At least the Maple Leafs have a bunch of titles. Neither the Raptors nor the Blues have ever won anything. You can probably excuse Toronto for this; they’ve only been in the NBA since 1995, which was the year the league expanded and welcomed Toronto and the Vancouver Grizzlies. It only took six years for the Grizzlies to leave Canada for Memphis, Tennessee, leaving the Raptors as Canada’s favorite (and only) NBA team. If you are unfamiliar with Toronto’s basketball franchise, you are not alone. They have had a fairly forgettable run. This is their first appearance in the finals. They have won their division six times in the past 24 seasons, including this year. Vince Carter is easily the best player in franchise history and I suppose he will end up in the Hall of Fame eventually. He belongs there for — if nothing else — his dunks.
The Blues have never owned a championship either. They have less of an excuse than the Raptors because they have been around since 1967, joining the NHL as one of six new teams when the league doubled to twelve franchises. This is the first time in the finals for the Blues as well. Prior to this season, they had won their division nine times. They did not win it this year and entered the playoffs as a wild-card team. Their season has been something of a roller coaster. They fired their coach in November and were in last place in January. Since then, they’ve been one of the best teams in the NHL and ended Boston’s seven-game winning streak with a Game 2 overtime win Wednesday night.
I have no doubt you know plenty about the Golden State Warriors and probably enough about professional sports teams from Boston to dislike the Bruins. The B’s are an original six franchise but have just one of Boston’s 12 championships since the turn of the century. In other words, they’re a little more relatable than the Red Sox or the New England Patriots. The Warriors, of course, are the class of the NBA and have been for a while. They are without the best player in the NBA (Kevin Durant) as the series tips off but should get perennial all-star DeMarcus Cousins back. Both of these series have the makings of David vs. Goliath encounters and, quite frankly, it would be just as shocking as it was for the Philistines when David killed their big guy to see either the Blues or the Raptors end up on top when all is said and done.
Thus, for the sake of this column and just for fun, I am going to take the Bruins in six and Golden State in five. Now sit back, grab a cold drink, and enjoy the only time of the year when two sports champions get crowned at (almost) the same time.