Obviously, teams root for themselves during the regular season, but once the post-season rolls around, less and less teams have the option of pulling for themselves.
Who do they root for?
Who do the general managers root for?
Most GMs will probably tell you they pull for their friends' teams. They'll secretly cheer for the teams run by guys they like.
But sometimes there are other variables in the cheering equation.
For example, the Anaheim Ducks are officially Philadelphia Flyers fans because of the Chris Pronger(notes) for Joffrey Lupul(notes) and Luca Sbisa(notes) trade. If the Flyers win the Stanley Cup, Anaheim gets a fourth-round draft pick.
Interestingly, according to Curtis Zupke of the Orange County Register, if the Flyers win the Cup, the Montreal Canadiens see a fourth-round pick change into a third-rounder, meaning that the Habs get a nice consolation prize for getting defeated by Philadelphia.
Surely, though, the Ducks can't be the only NHL team pulling for another team in the playoffs.
I can't believe the Edmonton Oilers are happily watching Pronger in the playoffs.
Pronger, most will recall, was a key part of Edmonton's 2006 Stanley Cup finals run. Once the Oilers had lost the Stanley Cup, Pronger demanded a trade out of Edmonton, never revealing what the issue was.
Edmonton has yet to re-appear in the NHL postseason.
Obviously, you can't put all of Edmonton's struggles on the shoulders of Pronger's exit, but I can't imagine the franchise is wishing him well as he leads a new team through the postseason, toward the Stanley Cup.
Thornton was traded by Boston GM Mike O'Connell in December 2005. O'Connell is no longer with the Bruins (he now handles pro development and special assignments for the Kings), but the trade that sent Thornton to San Jose has long been a black eye on the organization, often used as an example of one of the more uneven trades in NHL history (although the salary cleared by that trade did allow the Bruins to do some good things). Which is saying something given Mike Milbury's work for the Islanders.
No matter what Thornton has accomplished for San Jose, the Sharks' most recent playoff implosion, partially cued by Thornton's ineffectiveness, goes a long way toward allowing the Bruins to say Thornton wasn't the dominant player they needed him to be. Thornton's failing in the playoffs lets the Bruins definitively and authoritatively say they knew what they were doing when they traded him away. Why wouldn't the Bruins have rooted against Thornton and the Sharks?
The playoffs must be tough for Dale Tallon, the one-time Chicago GM who is now in charge of the Florida Panthers.
On the one hand, Tallon was unceremoniously fired by the Chicago Blackhawks, which had to leave him at least a little upset with the franchise. But on the other hand, true or not, the success of the Blackhawks is tied to Tallon, as the team's previous GM. As the Blackhawks succeed in the postseason, it only makes Tallon look like a smarter GM. Does he root for his reputation or his sense of revenge? It's a tough call.
GMs like to pretend they only care about the success of their own teams, but the fact of the matter is, a lot of times, the success of one team hinges upon the failure (or success, as we see with the Ducks-Flyers connection) of another team.
And let's face it. The huge stage the NHL postseason provides is a great forum for seeing a lot of old debts get settled and a lot of old slights get avenged.