No NHL playoffs in Canada? Bad for fans, bad for business

It hasn't happened since 1970, but Canadian hockey fans are facing the prospect that none of their hometown teams will make the NHL playoffs.

Emotional and financial troubles accompany bottom-feeding hockey teams

Montreal Canadiens' Max Pacioretty is hurt after taking a slapshot to the face during Tuesday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Fans shared the pain when game ended in another loss for the slumping Habs. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

It hasn't happened since 1970, but Canadian hockey fans are facing the prospect that none of their hometown teams will make the NHL playoffs.

All the Canadian teams in the NHL are currently in the bottom third of the standings, and not one is holding a playoff spot.

The idea of a post-season bereft of a Canadian Stanley Cup run has fans feeling the blues.

​"I'd think I'd cry for a long time," one Habs fan said at a recent Bell Centre game.   

The pain of failing to make the playoffs would be particularly acute in Montreal, where the Canadiens started the season with a franchise record nine straight wins.

As the saying goes in Montreal, fans could smell the Cup. Now crowds are turning their noses at the team's recent play, which has seen them plummet in the standings.

Habs fans, however, are not alone in their dismay.

Toronto's on-ice woes are nothing new. But Ottawa and Vancouver have teams that were expected to be among the top eight that make the playoffs in each conference. 

And some pundits thought the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames were poised for a playoff run, while fans in Edmonton were hopeful this season could finally be the one in which they climbed out of the cellar. 

Instead, all seven of them are on the outside looking in as the NHL enters its all-star weekend.

Financial fallout as well as emotional turmoil

Aside from the emotional turmoil, there may be financial fallout as well.

Jerseys and caps gather dust when the home team is losing, and the lack of a playoff appearance will only make things worse.

Fewer games also mean fewer pints poured at bars across the country.

Toby Lyle, who owns several pubs in Montreal, said business has dropped considerably on game nights since the team started slumping.

"Moving forward, I'm much more nervous about April, May, June," said Lyle. 

"When the Habs are in the playoffs, it's huge. You turn people away no matter what day of the week it is."

It's hardly an ideal situation for sports broadcasters either. Rogers Sportsnet could see a significant dip in its ratings.

"For them, audience and ratings are paramount," said Vijay Setlur, a sports marketing expert at York University.

"Without any Canadian teams in the playoffs, not as many people from Canada will be watching, because they don't care. That will result in them not being able to command high ad rates."

In related news, the NBA's Toronto Raptors have just won 10 straight, in case hockey fans are looking for something to get excited about.


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