With Vancouver and Boston set to drop the puck for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, we at NHL.com can't guarantee who will win. But we can guarantee this: Whoever does win the Cup will have waited quite a while.
The Canucks joined the NHL in 1970 and have yet to win the Stanley Cup in 41 years of hockey, a drought so long that only two franchises in NHL history -- Los Angeles and St. Louis, who both entered the League in 1967 -- have gone longer without a championship since their inception. The Bruins, meanwhile, have five Stanley Cups in their history, but have come up empty since they topped the New York Rangers in six games in 1972, meaning the Hub has gone Cup-less for 39 years.
To say the League has changed dramatically since 1972 would be an understatement. Since Boston last hoisted the Cup, not only has the NHL more than doubled in size, from 14 teams to 30, but it was so long ago that the Canucks, who were finishing their second season in 1972, were actually in the East Division with the Bruins -- a bizarre notion considering Vancouver was the western-most city in the League at the time and remains so today.
Historically, matchups between long-suffering squads have proven themselves to be extremely rare. In the 83 times the Cup has been contested since the NHL gained control of it in 1926, there had only been nine instances prior to this season in which both finalists had gone so long as 10 years without winning it all. Only six times had the finalists each gone as long as 20 years.
And 30 years? That had never happened at all until Chicago and Philadelphia met last season with 49- and 35-year droughts in the balance.
In fact, while the combined 80 years this year's teams have gone without a Cup is not the most in NHL history -- Chicago and Philadelphia have that dubious distinction -- never before have two teams faced off in the Final that have each waited as long to skate with Stanley as Vancouver and Boston this year. While both teams have had their chances to end the drought, they seemingly ran up against something bigger than themselves each time. Vancouver has made two trips to the Final in its history, facing the dynastic Islanders, who won their third of four straight Cups in 1982, and the curse-breaking Rangers of 1994, who won in seven games to end a 54-year drought, the longest in NHL history.
Boston has had five chances to bring home the Cup since its 1972 championship -- but the Bruins lost to Bobby Clarke's Philadelphia Flyers in 1974, suffered consecutive Finals losses to the legendary Canadiens of the late 70s in 1977 and 1978, and were beaten in 1988 and 1990 by the Edmonton Oilers.
Both the Bruins and Canucks have had their fair share of close calls and bad luck in the past 40 years, but this June one of them will finally bring a championship home as the NHL is guaranteed to see either the fourth- or sixth-longest Cup drought in the League come to an end. When that happens, the rest of us will have to forgive fans in Boston or Vancouver if they wind up celebrating a little harder than usual.
They've been dealing with a lot of anguish -- about four decades' worth.
Reach David Kalan at firstname.lastname@example.org