Red hot!

JOE WARMINGTON --font color="#999999">Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:59 PM ET

 CALGARY -- The Night Scrawler has taken his show on the road to talk to ordinary Canadians as they celebrate a Canadian team in the Stanley Cup final and as they vent their anger at politicians campaigning for the June 28 election. What's more important to us as a nation? Catch the Scrawler as he rides the highways and byways hearing tales from ordinary folks.

 So this is what it's like to actually be on the eve of a Stanley Cup victory celebration.

 Maple Leafs fans in the past 37 years don't have much experience with this.

 It's actually been 15 years since Calgary won the cup and the exuberance and anticipation here last night was as if it's all new to them.

 "The last time it happened, I was in Grade 1," said office worker Andrea Van Sluys, who was one of the thousands downtown wearing Flames colours.

 All the talk has been about 17th Ave. -- known as the Red Mile -- but the whole town is a sea of red waiting for the biggest bash in here since the 1988 Winter Olympics.

 "If they win, this will be bigger than anything," said Cornelia Barter. "Everybody is just crazy in town right now."

 For Scrawler, after 10 days on the road, it's good to be here again.

 I covered the Flames for the Calgary Sun in 1997 and '98 and it was a time of doom and gloom for the team.

 That was then.

 The now sees complete Flamesdemonium everywhere.

 Canadians from coast to coast, including fellow sharpshooters the Canadian Snowbirds, are along for the ride.

 "We are on tour in the United States and wherever we are we all get together at night and watch it on the big screen," team leader Maj. Steve Will said.

 In Calgary, everything else -- including the federal election -- is on hold.

 "We are enjoying it so much," said Zareena Rayman, who was in the Eaton Centre with son Ayrton, 3, and friend Flo DeSousa buying up the shrinking Flames clothing stock.

 And fans are improvising. For example, the mechanical Canada goose used to scare off too many flocks has been transformed into Robo Flame.

 Robo Flame will get back to his day job next week. But for now it's needed as a mascot -- and enjoyed by young fans Joshua Willis, 2, and Nick Wesley, 2.

 I was on the road for 10 days to get here and really started to notice the fever when I watched much of Game 5 in the Esso truck stop near Medicine Hat.

 "Everybody is into it," said Sue MacInnis, who with co-workers Dustin Harper and Bev Wasylciw sneaks in periodically to watch games in the truckers' lounge with drivers.

 A lot of fans have lost their voices from screaming so loud.

 Bob Cole, the veteran play-by-play man for Hockey Night In Canada, knows what they mean. "I've had a week of flu," he said. But, like the players, he soldiers on. This will be his 24th playoff game so far in 2004.

 Fans here hope tonight is this season's last. If it is, "it will be explosive," said Ron Bird. "Everybody from everywhere will come and the party will go way past Sunday."

 Imagine, a lifelong Maple Leaf fan might actually get the chance to participate in something like that.


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