Manitoba made the tournament

TED WYMAN

, Last Updated: 6:29 AM ET

Well Winnipeg, how does it feel to be the envy of the hockey world? That's right, give yourselves a pat on the back, because everyone from Little Man Gary Bettman, to Wayne Gretzky to Uwe Krupp, not to mention about four million TV viewers, saw this week just how passionate Winnipeggers and Manitobans in general are about hockey.

Nobody could ignore the life our province breathed into the World Junior Hockey Championship in Grand Forks, N.D. It was simply an awesome display of emotion that was as uplifting as the performance of the dominant Canadian team.

Other than the incessant Go Jets Go chants, the exuberance of the local fans was a source of tremendous pride.

Indeed, it seemed like Winnipeg annexed the town of Grand Forks (hope you like taxes, my American friends), and turned everything within a few miles of the Ralph Engelstad Arena into a carnival. Taking a page from the book of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, what we saw Tuesday were the Winnipeg Canadians of Grand Forks.

As one local observer who ran into someone he knew at every turn put it: "It was like being on Corydon on a Saturday night."

After bellowing through three periods of Canada's coronation this week and whooping it up with hundreds of 'Peggers at the subsequent shaker at El Roco, most fans would agree (at least those who didn't get kicked out!).

There were some people who tried publicly to make it sound like it was all of Canada creating the frenzy at the Ralph, but anyone who was there knows it was all about Manitoba. A good three-quarters of the fans who belted out O Canada and We are the Champions last Tuesday came from this province.

A brilliant hockey team, led by future NHL stars Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf and Jeff Carter, made the story of the championship, but the Manitoba fans made the event.

And it's an experience thousands of people will cherish for the rest of their lives.

THE LUCKY ONES: We would be remiss if we didn't point out the fact that Winnipeg is a hockey haven in more ways than one.

In addition to having the greatest Canadian junior team in history located either in or within a couple of hours of our city for a month, we also have a sparkling new arena (just don't compare it to the Ralph) one of the best pro teams in North America in the Manitoba Moose and the best attendance figures on the continent.

For a city that had its heart ripped out by the NHL with the loss of the Jets, it's all pretty special.

Eat your heart out, Toronto.

COME ON BACK: It's hard to fairly equate all of this hockey momentum with the possible return of the NHL, but am I the only one who thinks it's all just a matter of time, now?

CHEZ PIERRE: I can think of only one reason to be happy that the world junior is finally over: No more Pierre McGuire.

Truly, the TSN analyst is not all bad. He has obvious enthusiasm for the game and delivers some good lines ("the Russians are going down like free beer at a frat party") but he's the king of over-analysis and needs to clam up some times.

I can't count the number of times he interrupted play-by-play man Gord Miller to extol the virtues of a brilliant dump-in by a defenceman or trumpet the lack of a centre-ice red-line in international hockey.

And another thing: What did we ever do to him, that makes him want to yell at us all the time?

CUP RUNNETH OVER: Had to chuckle at the trophy the Canadian boys received for their monumental win. There were beer cups at the Ralph that were bigger than that ... Kudos to all the teams and individuals in sports who are raising or donating money for tsunami relief. Every little bit helps ... We now return you to your regularly-scheduled lockout.

Got a sports note, quote or anecdote? Send it to thehitparade@wpgsun.com or phone 632-2786.


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