OTTAWA — Senators forward Clarke MacArthur was just eight years old the last time a Canadian-based NHL team won the Stanley Cup.
Since that magical run by the 1993 Montreal Canadiens, who won an NHL-record 10 playoff games in overtime, five Canadian teams have made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final only to lose. The Senators had their chance in 2007, when they lost to the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
MacArthur grew up in Lloydminster, Alta., and played his junior hockey in Medicine Hat. Over his 11 NHL seasons he’s made stops in Buffalo, Atlanta, Toronto and now Ottawa. He knows what the game of hockey and the Stanley Cup mean to Canada.
Now just two wins away from the Stanley Cup final after Wednesday night’s 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, this is the closest MacArthur has come to playing for hockey’s ultimate prize.
“I think about it a lot,” MacArthur says. “What a great feeling to have a chance to win. We’re right here. It’s crazy to think how hard it is to win.”
Dreaming of the Cup
MacArthur would know. His career appeared in serious jeopardy when, in late January, the Senators announced he wouldn’t play another game this season because of post-concussion issues.
But at the beginning of April he made his triumphant return to the lineup, and he went on to score the series-winning overtime goal in Ottawa’s opening-round victory over the Boston Bruins.
In 2005 MacArthur won a world junior hockey championship as a member of Team Canada alongside current Senators teammate Dion Phaneuf. But it’s that Cup that has eluded MacArthur throughout his entire career.
“In your head you’re like, what would I do if I won the Cup?” MacArthur says. “You just start day-dreaming about things and that’s the cool thing about it.”
Growing up, MacArthur’s favourite NHL team was the Edmonton Oilers. He was young during those glory days when not only the Oilers, but also the Calgary Flames and Montreal were winning Cups.
But when it comes to this 24-year Canadian Cup curse, MacArthur says the media makes more of it than the players.
“I think it probably gets talked about more with you guys than us,” he says. “But it’s incredible to think about the guys who have gone the distance and won.”
MacArthur’s teammate Derick Brassard, who was born in Hull, Que., not far from Ottawa, has similar feelings about the Canadian Cup drought.
“We’re trying to win it for our fans first,” he says. “We don’t really think about the big picture. If you look at the big picture, your mindset isn’t in the right place.”
If there was ever a time for a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, this year would be a good one.
Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday. The NHL is celebrating its 100th year. And the Senators are celebrating the team’s 25th year of existence.
Plus, Ottawa’s roster is more Canadian than any other among the four teams left competing for the Cup.
Of Ottawa’s 19-player roster, 13 are Canadian-born, compared to 10 on the Nashville Predators, eight on the Ducks and just six on the Penguins.
They’re contributing too: in the Sens’ 5-1 victory in Game 3 against Pittsburgh, five different Canadian-born players scored the goals.
Now those Canadian players hope they can find six more wins to start their country’s birthday celebration early by bringing the Cup back home.