It's not like we didn't know this was coming, Canada. After teasing us earlier in the week with the news, on Wednesday night it was finally official: there will be no Canadian hockey team in this year's NHL playoffs.
Certainly, the news is more disheartening than shocking to Canadian hockey fans. The birthplace of the sport will be shut out of the race for Lord Stanley's trophy for the first time in 46 years. Though the major cities will have no cause for celebration, the Stanley Cup will no doubt get shown around the country thanks to Canada's dominance on the rosters of all 16 teams in the hunt.
Even so, nothing replaces the roller coaster emotional ride of planting your flag with a team for however long their run lasts. Playoff hockey is the best part of the season, and we all know it. It's fun! The atmosphere is bar none in the NHL! Anything can happen!
Don't think of the absence of all seven teams from the north as a failure, but an opportunity. All of Canada has the unique freedom to pick their own adventure here with any one of the 16 playoff teams, or more! You may not find glory with your No. 1 team of choice, sure, but that doesn't mean there isn't hope for you somewhere else this year.
So give me your tired, your hungry, your poor, Canada, and let me light the way for a path to playoff success without your beloved teams.
Be old fashioned, and root for the team with the most Canadian players
The Panthers take the mantle for that this season, with 16 players hailing from Canada this year on their roster. That makes up a whopping 57% of the team, so if you're a traditionalist, this is the route for you.
Five of their players are on injured reserve, though, so opting for the next-best Flyers or Ducks with 15 is also acceptable. Still, the Panthers are a great story, with a young team that will no doubt inject energy into the postseason, and into your lifeless Canadian blood.
You'd also inherit the certainly older-than-he-looks Aaron Ekblad and the Twitter of one Roberto Luongo with the Panthers, and you really can't go wrong with either of those guys. Plus, they have Czech hero Jaromir Jagr too!
Keep yourself local and root for the north!
Not only do you get a feel of solidarity with those in the north, who know the snow and cold as well as you do, it's also not a choice out of left field. Sports fans pick teams based on location all the time, from March Madness to the Olympics. It's one of the most basic techniques in choosing a team to follow and has documented levels of success.
Admittedly, the Sharks are closer to the Canucks than the Wild are, so you can call an audible on that one should you like. If the Bruins don't make the playoffs, then the Red Wings are also a solid choice for those in the northeast corridor.
Stay gold, Canada
You want winners, Canada? Sidney Crosby has shown you he can deliver on a big international stage once before. Not only that, he's THE Canadian player of this hockey era. No one would question your choice to root for the team that houses the player who gave you guys a gold on home ice six years ago.
The Penguins are good too, I guess.
The enemy of my enemy ...
Yes, exactly like that phrase of old. Are you a Canadiens fan who hates the Bruins? Root for whoever plays them in the first round, which as of this week looks to be the Panthers. If the Red Wings sneak in and you're a Leafs fan? Put your hopes behind the Capitals.
Hockey thrives on hatred. It's one of the best things about this sport. Don't like feeling powerless that your favorite team isn't there for you to cheer on? Channel that feeling to cheer on the teams that face your rivals. Let the hate flow through you, young Padawan.
Root for whoever you want, or nobody at all!
Why are you letting someone else tell you who to root for in these playoffs? In fact, you don't have to have an active interest in any of the 16 teams competing for the Stanley Cup this year at all! Shocking, I know!
Sometimes it's just fun to watch hockey without worrying about your personal feelings. And that's okay too! We all need a break from the heart attacks and eventual heartache that the postseason brings, especially after Canada's disappointing regular season. Playoff hockey is playoff hockey, and it will still be entertaining no matter what team you cheer for, if any.