Only once in NHL history has no Canadian team participated in the playoffs.
That was the 1969-70 season, when both the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs missed. The league had just two Canadian teams back then. It only had 12 teams overall, having recently expanded beyond the Original Six.
It actually came down to the final game for the Habs. All they had to do was score five goals against Chicago and they’d win the tie-breaker with the Rangers. It didn’t matter if they lost. Just score five goals and they were in.
Predictably, things got a little wacky, as the New York Times recounted with the help of former Rangers star Vic Hadfield:
Sure enough, the Canadiens fell behind by 5-2 early in the third period. They needed three more goals. So they put goalie Rogie Vachon on the bench for the extra man — and proceeded to surrender five empty-netters without adding to their total. Montreal lost, 10-2, and missed the playoffs for the only time from the 1948-49 season to the 1994-95 season.
Hadfield remembered the evening, saying: “Emile Francis was able to bring in Tim Horton to strengthen our blue line. Timmy and myself, we took our wives after the matinee game to the Copacabana to see Tom Jones. We were going in and out of the Copacabana to find out who was winning and what the score was” in Chicago.
There is so much to like about that second paragraph.
Anyway, we only mention this because if the Montreal Canadiens of 2015-16 don’t find a way to turn things around, there’s a very real chance that no Canadian team will be in the playoffs this spring.
Currently, the Habs are the only Canadian team in a playoff position, and they’re barely hanging on to that spot: