Canada-First is a dumb sentiment.
I'm not only saying this because I'm a Leafs fan and the last Canadian team standing is the Habs. While yes, I have taken and always will take a special pleasure in seeing the Canadiens or the Senators eliminated, that Montreal is the Canadian city still represented in the Stanley Cup playoffs has nothing to do with my belief that rooting for a team based on it wearing the name of a city that happens to be in the same country as my body is arbitrary and pointless.
First, let me begin by saying that all team loyalties are obviously arbitrary. It's not like there are quotas for regional representation or even the sort of long-term relationships between players and teams that there used to be. Hockey teams, and all major sports
teams, are groups of mercenaries whose only tie to you and your hometown is that a rich person or corporate entity has paid the members of that group millions of dollars to wear your city's name on their shirts. You probably gave those owners tax money and free stadiums to help them do so. Drew Magary made this point the other day in one of his Funbags.
This doesn't change the fact that we make those arbitrary decisions and stick to those loyalties like we would to members of our own family. In some cases those are even intertwined sentiments - I'm a Leafs fan because I was raised a Leafs fan by a father who is a die-hard Leafs fan, and so on.
Having that sort of loyalty to your home team or your chosen team is fine, of course. It makes you part of a group, which is comforting. You get to experience the shared triumph of victory and the shared despair of defeat with like-minded people. But if you're an Oilers fan you don't cry when the Canucks don't make the playoffs. Canada-First is just bandwagon jumping under the flimsy pretense of national pride.
What functional difference is there to me between the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers? I love Montreal as a city, but I love New York as a city as well. So that's a wash. Personally, I prefer New York bagels to Montreal bagels. I think Montreal bagels are too dense. Thus if my only criterion is bagel preference, I'd have to root for the Rangers. Bagel preference is a dumb, arbitrary way to select a team to root for that I don't have a personal, historical stake in cheering on. But is it any more dumb or arbitrary a reason than the national location of a city that's not my hometown?
One of the common arguments made by the Canada-First crowd is "well, it's been over 20 years, we need to bring the Cup back to Canada where it belongs." I have two rejoinders to this asinine line of thinking. One, that is the EXACT sort of meaningless jingoistic garbage that some of the snootier among us Canadians LOOOOVE to decry in our American neighbours. If you want to be patriotic, be patriotic by getting involved in the political process or donating your time to wounded veteran charities or something. Stop worrying about your country happening to contain the city whose sports team won the right to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. Which brings me to my second rejoinder - other than when it's travelling around with members of the winning team (which, as was pointed out, means it spends more than half that time in Canada anyway), the Stanley Cup resides in the Hockey Hall of Fame, which happens to be in.... TORONTO! So don't worry, your precious Cup spends almost all of its days in our homeland.
Cheering for your country in sports is awesome. And there are great times to do so - Olympics, World Championships, World Cups, etc. During those times the team you're cheering for actually does 100 per cent contain players from the place that's written across the jersey. But outside of those situations, stop fretting about a Canadian team winning the Cup once your own team is bounced. Go ahead, hate on the Habs, cheer for the Rangers, do it guilt free. It's more fun to hate what you hate than to co-opt it for nebulous reasons.
Go Leafs Go!