Honouring the Moose

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

Today, at 12:30 p.m., the Edmonton Oilers will announce details of the Feb. 27 Mark Messier banner raising in front of Wayne Gretzky and his Phoenix Coyotes.

Think about that.

What the above tells you, more than anything, is that tonight's Stanley Cup rematch is just another hockey game.

It's a game, in fact, the Oilers are willing to upstage to set the stage.

Now that Chris Pronger's boo-a-thon is done and gone - the next big night in Rexall Place, quite clearly is not tonight but the night when No. 11 is raised to the rafters.

Tonight?

This is game 27.

Non-divisional. Non-conference. Non-event.

The Messier "major news''event, to quote the release, will be held exactly seven hours before the Stanley Cup rematch.

JUST ONE GAME

There's only one game all season featuring the Stanley Cup champions and Stanley Cup runners up.

One.

If you're lucky.

Actually, this is the first one in three years.

The Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning didn't play each other in either location last year.

Yet nobody - the fans, the media, the league or even the players - appear to be particularly lathered up about tonight's tilt between the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes and the Cup runner-up Edmonton Oilers.

The league didn't do anything with it.

The Stanley Cup champions playedin Calgary last night - for the first time since 2003.

And the Oilers decided to hold an optional practice which meant that anybody in Game 7 of last year's Stanley Cup final didn't have to go anywhere near Rexall Place.

There's certainly no heaping helping of hype. And yesterday there was also no helping of hope.

Yesterday the NHL Board of Governors, in their traditional trip to West Palm Beach, Florida, decided to stick with the same schedule set up which involves only 10 of 82 games a year against teams in the other conference.

In today's NHL, even after a Stanley Cup final which went the full seven games, there's no hate. It was never like that with the New York Islanders.

"Scotty Munro and Bill Hunter couldn't get anybody to hate Carolina vs Edmonton,''said a member of the Oilers organization.

"There's zero hate there. We all went there for the final and the people we so nice. And they came up here and said 'My gosh, they're singing our national anthem.' ''

It would be a good story if you could line up the Oilers and have them tell you that they've had nightmares about Game 7 for months and this is finally a chance to maybe confront them.

But mostly the nightmares are about Game 1. That's where most look back and know the Stanley Cup final was lost.

First the Oilers blew a 3-0 lead.

Then Dwayne Roloson blew a knee. Then Ty Conklin went into the game and gave the game away. Win that game and they win the series.

The truth is that with 32 divisional games per team, a 4-0 win in Vancouver goes a whole lot further than whatever happens tonight. Take the day off boys.

Next one isn't a biggie.

With the new NHL it's already like the Hurricanes and all those other teams are from another league.

DEVALUATION

The NHL is in definite danger of devaluing the identities of the teams in opposite conferences. Even against a team which went to Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final.

Pronger's return to town a week ago was a massive event with a big build-up for weeks in advance.

This one is more like 'Who they playing tonight again?'

The Messier major news conference is an event.

The Stanley Cup rematch is an optional. Says it all.


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