SUN Hockey Pool

The last game

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

OTTAWA -- There should be some sort of ceremony on Parliament Hill today.

Maybe a flag lowering. Perhaps the playing of taps.

It's "The Last Game."

Well, not forever and forever. But for at least 20 months barring the first all-Canadian Stanley Cup final in 18 years.

There won't be one next season. Not here. Not back there.

Next year the NHL's Northwest Division teams won't play the NHL's Northeast Division teams once.

East is East and West is West and the twain won't meet on Canadian ice.

Tonight it's the Edmonton Oilers and the Ottawa Senators. Saturday night it was the Oilers in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.

THIS IS IT

Calgary and Vancouver have made their trips here and to Montreal. This is it. No more games between the Canadian NHL West teams and the Canadian NHL East teams until October 2008, at the earliest.

Thanks to "no" votes by the Montreal Canadiens and the Senators, the NHL didn't pass a motion for schedule change to rid the league of the current setup where Sidney Crosby plays in Western Conference cities once every three years.

Like that would have happened when Wayne Gretzky was playing in Edmonton.

You get to see Crosby in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver next year. If he isn't injured at the time. Although he isn't the same attraction as Crosby, Oiler Ethan Moreau is in a similar situation.

A LONG WAIT

Moreau is from Huntsville, Ont. He hasn't played a game in Toronto or Ottawa since Nov. 6 and Nov. 8 of 2003.

He won't play his next one until the fall of 2009 or early in 2010 - maybe even after the Vancouver Olympics, if they don't change the rotation and Moreau is an Oiler.

"I don't understand it. Just ask the people what they want. In Canada, they want to watch Canadian teams play Canadian teams at least once a year, every year. I really believe fans want to see us play in the East," said Moreau, who has missed most of the season due to injury.

"I really enjoy going back to Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Buffalo.

"In Buffalo and Toronto, I couldn't believe how many Oiler sweaters were in the crowd.

"We have a lot of fans in the East and we regained a lot of fans with what we did in the playoffs last year.

"But it's not just games like the ones here. I've been in the league 11 years and I can't remember the last time I played in Florida.

'CAN'T REMEMBER'

"You go into buildings here now and you can't remember what door to go in and what turns to take to get to the dressing room.

"It's more fun for the players to visit all the cities in the league on a regular basis. And the fans like it, too.

"I know the theory is playing all those divisional rivalry games, but you play the teams so many times it's not a big deal when you play them now."

Moreau, more than anything, wants to watch his team win one down here, right now.

"My whole season depends on the next little bit. I've been training to play the next three months.

"With every loss it gets a little tougher not to be playing.

"If we could get a run of five wins in six games it would really re-energize me.

"I've been training to get back to be in the playoffs."

But that's another sorry story.

A SAD DAY

Steve Staios is from Hamilton.

Knowing that this is going to be the last game between Canadian teams East and West here or at home until two seasons from now, he believes this is a sad day for hockey in Canada.

"It really is too bad," he said. "It's exciting for all of the Canadian players to play these types of games. You saw it in Toronto.

"There was a lot of energy in the building. When you're in Toronto and you hear the 'Let's Go Oilers' chant, it's fun to play in those type of games.

"And to not be able to have a full Hockey Day In Canada on CBC ... that's become a tradition.

"I'm surprised they didn't put in more effort to keep that tradition alive."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasn't available for comment ... but, hey, I tried.


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