Red Mile diary

Bill Kaufmann --Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:22 PM ET

 It's been the pulse of the Calgary Flames post-season run since Martin Gelinas eliminated the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And as Calgary's opponents have fallen by the wayside, the Red Mile celebrations have grown from 15,000 to more than 50,000 fans. Sun reporter Bill Kaufmann had his finger on the pulse yesterday and filed this Red Mile Diary:

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 * 1:20 p.m. -- It's clear -- Robson St., Yonge St. and St. Catherine St. are no longer Canada's signature boulevards of dreams. Vancouverite Jason Bridges has found his way to the Red Mile, carrying a huge Maple Leaf flag. The evidence is everywhere that this is hoser nirvana. "It's one of those once-in-a-life-time things, being in town when the Stanley Cup is won," says Bridges, a 22-year-old Canucks fan. Melrose Cafe -- where people started lining up at 8 a.m. -- and the Ship and Anchor pub are mobbed by Flames fanatics. "It's a different kind of excitement and lining up is all part of the fun," said Danielle Smythe, who came in from Medicine Hat.

 * 2:20 p.m. -- It's already a river of red. At Watchman's Pub, a mighty cheer erupts as a big red Flames clubhouse on wheels is hauled past. Over beers, Marcy Armstrong and her girlfriends are discussing the politics of female exhibitionism on the manic mile. "Everyone has their own way of showing patriotism," says Armstrong, 34. She disapproves of such displays, calling them acts of opportunism. Camera-toting men disagreed.

 * 3:37 p.m. -- It's three hours until game time and I've lost count of the tinfoil Stanley Cups. A guy dressed in hockey gear, complete with helmet, resembles Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys on skates. Rod Magarrell toots on a twisted metre-long antler horn from some exotic African beast. He says he's on a mission from God. "We're just praying for peace, so things don't get out of hand down here," said Magarrell. A 1926 vintage fire engine, brimming with yahoos, adds to the crimson parade. On the sidewalk, a trio of young women, clad in T-shirts reading "Saskatoon Triple Threat" insist they've always been more than Joanie-come-latelys. "I was a fan before, sort of -- we're here to party with the boys," said Shaelene Gudmundson, 18.

 * 4:42 p.m. -- With each hour, the psychosis grows on the Red Mile. Drunks on foot are wobbling through traffic. The strip's top dog is three-year-old Great Dane, Zeus, clad head to tail in Flames colours. Scandalous T-shirt reads, "I will lift you up if you lift up your shirt. Up to 130 lbs."

 * 6:02 p.m. -- Inside Melrose Cafe eardrums nearly bleed as the Hockey Night in Canada intro holds court on the big screens.

 * 6:41 p.m. -- The Flames play is sloppy and the team is on its heels and the Melrose crowd grumbles until Miikka Kiprusoff makes a huge save. Bartender Sean Sullivan, crowned with a hockey helmet and reading "Booze Pimp", furiously churns out the drinks.

 * 7:09 p.m. -- An upscale crowd at the Metropolitan Grill has its doubts about the game's outcome. "I think its going to go seven games," said Kyla Sinclair, 29.

 * 7:17 p.m. -- A collective gasp of horror escapes as Tampa Bay scores their first goal -- Brad Richards is the marksman. "That hurts," said Grill owner Jeff Hanna.

 * 7:28 p.m. -- Chris Clark scores for the Flames and bedlam erupts. It's an adrenaline fix. "It feels good, doesn't it," said doorman Chris Burke.

 * 7:32 p.m. -- That high doesn't last long as Tampa Bay scores -- Richards again. Down on the street, the mood gets ugly as police briefly scuffle with fans in front of Mount Royal Village.

 * 7:46 p.m. -- The rollercoaster ride resumes as Marcus Nilson scores the tying goal. The opiate of the hockey masses has the crowd chanting and the joint rocking. "I've never watched hockey in my life, but there's so much energy here. I'm a newly converted Flames fan," said Toni James, 32, of Red Deer.

 * 8:02 p.m. -- There's a sense of relief on the street between the second and third periods. For the moment, a tie game is like gold.

 * 8:14 p.m. -- In the Yardhouse pub, drinks spill as the Flames blow what seemed to be a sure scoring chance. The mood remains electric. "I'll remember this until I'm 60," said Troy Rittai, 19.

 * 8:35 p.m. -- The image of the Stanley Cup being polished charges up the Yardhouse yard apes.

 * 8:49 p.m. -- It's the calm before the moment of truth, as OT looms. The boys from the Yardhouse have just elicited their first flash. A bottle guy with a shopping cart has the game on with his headphones.

 * 9:53 -- Barely a whimper ripples through the crowd as the Lightning conquer the Flames this night. Curses are muttered, but mainly under the breath. The mob filling 17 Ave. takes on the appearance of a sombre street fair. "They'll win Game 7, but it would've been sweet," said Tara Tulsma, 28.

 * 11:10 -- The Flames Stanley Cup hopes may not have died, but chivalry did again on the Red Mile. The crowd, cursing the Lightning, resorted once again to demanding exhibitionism. Chants of "Flames in seven" rang out among the crowd, as police worked overtime to snatch beer out of the hands of revellers. Meanwhile, a giant Stanley Cup at 8 St. spewed Flames on command, while fans attempted to rekindle their victorious spirit.


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