There are no Canadian teams left in the National Hockey League playoffs, but Saskatchewan fans still have three big reasons to cheer.
For the first time in more than a decade, three Saskatchewan-born players could soon have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. Jaden Schwartz of Melfort, Brayden Schenn of Saskatoon and Tyler Bozak of Regina are all key members of the St. Louis Blues.
Schwartz produced his second hat-trick of the playoffs Sunday night and is one of the league's top playoff scorers. A victory in Tuesday's game against the San Jose Sharks would send the Blues into a Stanley Cup final showdown against the Boston Bruins.
"We're very excited about it," said Joseph Laprairie, marketing manager for the Saskatchewan Hockey Association. "We'll be rooting for them all the way to the Cup."
Laprairie said these three players serve as role models for younger Saskatchewan players, much like star goalie Braden Holtby (Lloydminster) when he won last year with the Washington Capitals.
"It's really big for hockey in this province," he said, calling the Blues "Saskatchewan's team."
The last time three Saskatchewan players won the Stanly Cup was in 2007, according to hockeydb.com. That year, the Anaheim Ducks relied on Chris Kunitz (Regina), Travis Moen (Stewart Valley) and top scorer Ryan Getzlaf (Regina) to beat the Ottawa Senators.
Others since then came close – the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers had four Saskatchewanians - Scott Hartnell (Regina), Braydon Coburn (Shaunavon), Darroll Powe (Saskatoon) and Ryan Parent (Prince Albert), but lost in the finals to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Kunitz and Derrick Pouliot (Estevan) won with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016, but Josh Archibald (Regina) — who played several regular season games with the Penguins — didn't dress for the playoffs.
Laprairie also mentioned the province's other "strange little connection" with the Blues. In 1983, Saskatoon impresario "Wild" Bill Hunter nearly brought the Blues to Saskatoon in a deal that was eventually vetoed by the NHL board of governors.