If you’re a sports fan, you probably have a favorite team in most sports. As such, you root for that team until they are eliminated from championship contention. But when the playoffs come around and your team isn’t in it (or gets knocked out early), who do you root for then?
I have a very unscientific formula for how I answer that question, and it all boils down to one concept: parody.
If your team is out, the best thing you can do as a sports fan is root for parody, or against dynasty. Parody is so much better. It gives fans hope. It prevents one team or one group of teams from becoming too dominant. It levels the financial playing field for teams. And it ultimately draws more viewership across a wider range of games.
I have a formula (again, very unscientific) that I use to decide who to root for in a given playoff matchup between teams I otherwise have no emotional interest in. Keep in mind I only use this if my team isn’t playing or I’m not betting on the game:
1) Market with a longer championship drought. If markets have a similar drought, then… 2) Team with a longer championship drought. If teams have a similar drought, then… 3) Underdog. If teams are evenly-matched, then… 4) Team you like more/hate less.
Rarely do I get to #4, but it does happen. The Warriors/Cavs 2017 NBA Finals was a good example. The Warriors had won in 2015 and the Cavs took it in 2016. The first three in my list were virtually identical (yes, I know the Cavs were an underdog but it wasn’t a Cinderella story). I rooted for Golden State because they fell into the “hate less” category.
In any event, I’ve used my formula to rank the nine remaining NHL teams based on who you should root for. If you favorite team is out and you aren’t gambling, this is the model you should follow:
1) Vegas Golden Knights
What a story. The expansion franchise went from the longest of longshots to Stanley Cup favorites in six months. They are the sports story of the year. As the first Vegas pro team among the big four leagues, it’s easy to put them #1.
2) Winnipeg Jets
In 24 season in Winnipeg, the Jets have never even made the conference finals. That alone is enough to put them #2 here. It would be a fun story for a city who’s just seven years removed from regaining its NHL team.
3) Washington Capitals
None of the four major teams in D.C. have reached the conference finals in 20 years, going a combined 0-13 in their past 13 games in which they had a chance to advance. The Capitals may be the worst offender. They have eight division titles and three Presidents trophies over the past 11 years but have never made it past round two.
4) Nashville Predators
I hate putting them here since Nashville has never won a title, but they’ve only had pro sports for 21 years. The city’s suffering is relatively new compared to most. Plus, the Predators will be around for a while.
5) San Jose Sharks
Yes, San Jose has never won a title. But the Sharks have only been around 27 years, and they played for it all just two years ago. Plus, I basically consider them part of the Bay Area, and there has been enough winning with the 49ers and Warriors to last northern California a while.
6) Toronto Maple Leafs
It’s been a while for Toronto, and they have three teams, all of whom have passionate fan bases. But the Blue Jays won in 1993, the Leafs have 13 Cups (it’s been 51 years, but that’s still a lot) and I’ll use Toronto FC’s 2017 MLS Cup win as a tiebreaker.
7) Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning won it all in 2004, a very recent memory compared to most teams on this list, and also got back there in 2015. They might be the best team, so they won’t be scoring any points in the underdog category if it comes to that.
8) Boston Bruins
It pains me not to put this team last. The city of Boston and its fans are insufferable, elitist, entitled, greedy and downright rude. The Bruins won the Cup in 2011 and have six in total.
9) Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pens have a likable roster loaded with talent and are a ton of fun to watch. But they’ve won two straight Cups (which is tough to do in the NHL), and Pittsburgh fans could also stand to be humbled.