SUN Hockey Pool

Leafs won't find home at 'Dome

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

Question: When does a Calgary Flames home game feel like a road game?

Answer: When the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town.

There's a reason the Maple Leafs are a love-'em-or-hate-'em team and it's not just because of the host city's self-perceived status as Centre of the Universe.

Fans of the Original Six franchise are embedded in every NHL city and somehow manage to scrape together enough tickets to challenge the home crowd in volume.

When Calgarians weren't up to the challenge in past seasons, Leafs fans took advantage and made their chants heard on national TV instead, much to Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla's dismay.

"A few years back, it was pretty loud," said Iginla, the longest-serving Flame.

"They would score and you almost wouldn't know who scored. There was a while back there that, literally, you wouldn't know who scored if you just shut your eyes."

Flames defenceman Andrew Ference, part of the Flames' 3-2 overtime win over the Leafs in November of 2003, is admittedly annoyed by the phenomenon.

"I don't like it. I like when people cheer for us in our own building," said Ference.

"I don't even like when people wear Toronto Maple Leafs jerseys to practice here. Obviously, there's a lot of transplants. All those Torontonians smartened up and moved to Calgary so how can we help it that we have so many of them living here?

"Maybe it'll be a little different this year."

That may be the silver lining this season as the Leafs make their only appearance at the 'Dome tonight (7 p.m., Sportsnet).

Iginla has seen the tide of support recently roll back toward the Flames.

"When we were struggling, there were more Leafs fans. Then over the years as we get a little better, it's been a little quieter, our fans have been a little louder."

Where the Leafs have always had the luxury of seeing blue and white jerseys in every arena they travel to, the Flames are starting to see that kind of support.

"Now you notice, which is kind of cool, the reverse," said Ference. "When we go to some of the other rinks, we have more people cheering for us than we used to."

Still, you can be sure there will be a large gathering of those T.O. transplants tonight.

Iginla's plan to deal with that fact is simple.

"You don't like it but what can you do?" he said. "I guess you try to keep them off the board, maybe you don't have to hear them at all."


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