Memories of Cup defeat still sting for Iginla

PETER MAHER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Flights to Europe, Japan and Hawaii are longer in hours, but no air journey I've ever been on seemed as long as the venture through the silent night from Tampa Bay to Calgary on June 7, 2004.

It was a couple of hours after Tampa's team had won the Stanley Cup in a season when the Flames won the hearts of Calgarians.

The memory returns today as the Flames arrive in Tampa for the first time since that crushing defeat.

When the seven Flames players remaining from that seven-game series of three-and-a-half years ago enter the St. Pete Times Forum and walk to the visitor's dressing room to prep for tomorrow's clash with the host Lightning, they are certain to have a flashback to the evening their dreams were shattered.

Captain Jarome Iginla was talking about it yesterday.

"I'll never forget being in the locker room right after we lost," Iginla said. "Having to hear the crowd roar, knowing they were roaring when each player was holding the Cup, it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through. That stinks - a memory I'll never forget."

There will be plenty of what ifs as the seven from '04 reflect.

Miikka Kiprusoff will recall the two goals by Ruslan Fedotenko and wonder what he could have done differently.

Iginla will muse about a couple of missed scoring chances.

So will his centreman of the day, Craig Conroy, who had the Flames' only goal in the 2-1 loss.

Mostly, though, he'll wonder about the very borderline penalty referee Kerry Fraser assessed to Andrew Ference with 1:01 remaining, when the Flames were applying great pressure seeking a tying goal.

Defenceman Robyn Regehr will remember how his defence partner, Jordan Leopold, was robbed by Nikolai Khabibulin on a great chance to deadlock the contest with a minute and 20 seconds remaining.

Matthew Lombardi, who didn't play in the finals after suffering a concussion in the second round against the Detroit Red Wings, may mull over a chance where his blazing speed could have produced a goal or saved one.

Dion Phaneuf, who wasn't on that team but Flames property at the time, might be moved to wonder if he could have made a difference in Tampa on that sweltering summer evening.

The guys who were in Florida the night the Cup came to the Sunshine State might contemplate whether the trip was even necessary had the video goal judges at Saddledome taken longer to review Martin Gelinas' apparent goal in the third period that may have stood as the Cup-winning tally two evenings earlier .

Mostly, though, they'll recall the hurt, the feeling of being failures and the sobs they wept in the aftermath.

The broadcaster, remembering a much more jubilant flight back from Montreal with the Cup on May 25, 1989, will again feel terrible for the guys that sacrificed so much only to lose in Game 7.

It's not easy getting that drink, and as Flame players drank Molson Canadian flying home from Tampa that last time, many of them came to the front of the plane apologizing to owners, management, trainers and broadcasters for what they felt was a failure.

They weren't, but it's that mantra that makes hockey so great -- it's the Stanley Cup or nothing.


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