The Vancouver Canucks have returned to the Stanley Cup finals. Over the next few weeks, CanCulture‘s Gianluca Nesci will be blogging about everything from the games to Vancouverites themselves.

With a very slim victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, the Vancouver Canucks took the first step towards ending not only a 17-year franchise drought, but also a strain on the entire country.

It has been 18 long years since a Canadian team last hoisted the Stanley Cup. The city of Montreal holds those bragging rights, as the 1993 edition of the Canadiens defeated Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings.

The following year, Canada had a chance to celebrate back-to-back champions, but the Canucks could not get past Mark Messier and the New York Rangers. That heartbreaking seven-game loss triggered a downward spiral for Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But the lack of success is not due to a shortage of opportunities.

Despite only boasting six teams (now seven with the recent announcement of Winnipeg’s return to the NHL) in a league of 30, Canada has been represented by three finalists in less than a decade.

The first chance fell to the Calgary Flames in 2004, when captain Jarome Iginla led his team against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After taking a 3-2 series lead, the Flames returned home for Game 6 only one win away from the ultimate prize.

With the score tied 2-2, Calgary forward Martin Gelinas had what looked to be a perfectly fine goal taken away from him. The officials on the ice decided that his shot in the third period did not cross the goal-line behind Nikolai Khabibulin, contrary to what replays suggested. Tampa Bay went on to win the game in overtime. They completed the comeback with a thrilling 2-1 win in Game 7, thus bringing the cup to the sunny south.

After the 2005 lockout, Canada came back strong the following season. This time it was the Edmonton Oilers representing the nation, as they faced-off with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Misfortune struck the Oilers early in the series. An untimely injury in Game 1 to goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who carried the team almost single-handedly to the cup final, forced Edmonton to rely on back-ups Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen.

Conklin came into the game and proceeded to cough-up the puck behind the net with only 32 seconds left in the third period. Rod Brind’Amour picked up the loose puck and found the gaping net to give the ‘Canes a 5-4 win.

Carolina went on to win the series in seven games.

The very next season, the nation’s capital got a taste of cup fever. The Senators made their first finals appearance in franchise history against the Anaheim Ducks.

But the Sens simply came up against a team that many accepted as the best in the NHL at the time. The Ducks outstanding checking-line shut down the high-powered offence of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and to a lesser extent, Daniel Alfredsson.

The California-based team lifted the cup after winning in only five games.

Will Vancouver run into a similar issue and keep the depressing streak alive? Or will they be the team to catch a lucky break and finally turn the tide in Canada’s favour?

Given that winger Alexandre Burrows managed to escape suspension for his blatant bite on Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, fortune may be starting to shift. With the added fact that the Canucks are heavily-favoured, all signs point towards a different outcome this time around for the ‘Great White North.’

If Vancouver can manage three more wins over the Bruins, they will put an end to the drought they began back in 1994.

— Graphic by Don Dimanlig