Woe is Canada as its NHL teams struggle and its dollar drops

Published Feb. 3, 2016 2:13 a.m. ET

Woe, Canada.

If the NHL playoffs started today, none of the seven Canadian-based teams would be playing.

''It can't be good for the league,'' said San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, a Canadian. ''But we're hoping no team from Canada makes it because we've got to play against them.

''We do want the dollar to go up, though.''

As if having struggling hockey teams isn't bad enough in a country crazy about the sport, the Canadian economy is in rough shape.

The Canadian dollar, which was worth 71 cents in the U.S. on Tuesday, is trading at its lowest levels since 2003. Since 2011, the Canadian dollar has lost more than 33 percent of its value against U.S. currency.

That hurts the league, its franchises and players on each of the 30 teams.


''It affects everything and everybody,'' Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien said.

A $5.2 billion deal, for an example, between Rogers and the NHL for national TV rights in Canada is worth significantly less than it was a few years ago because the deal was signed when the value of the dollar on both sides of the border was relatively similar.

That in turn reduces hockey-related revenues - which are converted into U.S. dollars - that are split evenly between the NHL and players.

The players put a percentage of their paychecks in escrow, 16 to 18 percent this season. If their salaries end up being more than 50 percent of the HRR, they don't get that money back, and they might have to pay their teams even more.

''It definitely makes a big impact on us,'' said New York Islanders center John Tavares, a Canadian. ''So, everyone follows it a little bit and understands how it affects us and the league.''

The league went to the All-Star break without one Canadian team in playoff position for the first time, according to STATS.

If none of the seven teams surge into the postseason, it will be the first time that has happened since the NHL playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1980.

''I don't feel any pressure because there's 30-something games to be played this season,'' Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban said. ''A lot of things are going to change from now until the end of the season.''

Subban sure hopes so.

The Canadiens are in a 5-19-1 slump, their worst 25-game stretch since 1940, according to STATS.

Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto are ahead of only Buffalo in the Atlantic Division. Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver occupy the bottom three places in the Pacific Division. Winnipeg has a Central Division-low 47 points through 50 games of the 82-game schedule.

''It's tough, but it's not the end of the world,'' Byfuglien said. ''It's not easy to make the playoffs.''

The last time a Canadian-based team didn't make it into the postseason was in 1970, when the country had just Montreal and Toronto in the league. The Canadiens are the last non-U.S. franchise to win a Stanley Cup, in 1993.


NOT WORRIED ABOUT NO-SHOWS: The NHL and NHL Players' Association are excited about teaming up for the World Cup of Hockey in September. Unlike the All-Star game, in which banged-up stars sit out and get served with a one-game suspension, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly isn't worried about that happening in the fall.

''I don't think I'm aware of a situation where a player has opted out of an international tournament for world supremacy,'' Daly said during All-Star weekend. ''So, I don't anticipate it being an issue. Ultimately, all of these things are voluntary for the players. I wouldn't say the All-Star game is because it's in their standard-player contract, but something like World Cup clearly is voluntary for the players. I think we're going to get the best players. But in that context, it's personal choice.''


GAME OF THE WEEK: Chicago at Dallas on Saturday night shapes up to be a fantastic matchup of high-scoring teams. The Stars did all the scoring in their only previous matchup, beating the Blackhawks 4-0 on Dec. 22 at home.


AP Business Writer Ken Sweet in New York contributed to this report.


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