Talk ain't cheap

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:35 PM ET


 Not all of the greatest plays in the Stanley Cup final occur on the ice.

 Sometimes, tucked back in the dressing room, behind closed doors and away from prying microphones, players take a starring role without touching the puck.

 Usually it's the veterans, men who've slogged through this hockey marathon in seasons past, taking the floor to offer encouraging words, keeping teams focused on the moment, not the ultimate prize.

 The 1990 Edmonton Oilers were loaded with Stanley Cup rings, fighting for the club's fifth title in seven seasons. Surrounded by many veterans, a fresh-faced Martin Gelinas was appearing in his first NHL playoffs, soaking it all up.

 With words of wisdom emanating from every corner of the Oilers' room, Gelinas sat back with his mouth firmly closed, listening and learning.

 "(Mark) Messier was always there saying the right things but Kevin Lowe, too," remembers the Calgary Flames winger, now a 16-year veteran who earned his only ring that spring in Edmonton.

 "There were so many guys -- it was their fifth Cup -- (Glenn) Anderson, (Jari) Kurri, (Esa) Tikkanen. A lot of guys who said the right things and others who didn't talk but led by example. Kevin Lowe was always great in the room, he's a very good speaker. Randy Gregg, too. The list goes on and on."

 Gelinas lost Cup finals with Vancouver in 1994 and Carolina in 2002.

 Now, with his second Cup ring almost within reach, the Quebec native is one of the veterans to whom the Flames look for leadership.

 "I'm trying to lead the way on the ice and when there's something that needs to be said, I'll say it if I think it's the right time. But so far everybody's been on the same page," said Gelinas, who survived a wild ride in a 1-0 loss Monday night, suffering a nasty gash beneath his left eye from a stray puck.

 "You can't think too far ahead. You have one big step and that's to win the next game. You can't think too far ahead."

 Flames winger Chris Simon, who won a Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996 and also lost a final with Washington two years later, says the leadership role in the Flames' room is a shared responsibility.

 "A lot of guys have talked in the room and that's what you need throughout the playoffs," the 12-year NHL veteran said.

 "A guy like Rhett Warrener has done a lot for us on the ice and in a leadership role.

 "Marty Gelinas, Stephane Yelle, we've got a lot of guys in the room who are vocal and say the right things, have a lot of energy but it's not only one guy. Iggy's ... leads us in the room and on the ice. He's the one biggest voice in our room."

 Simon explained veteran voices in the dressing room keep the surprising Flames from looking beyond the next shift or period.

 Although the Stanley Cup is so tantalizingly close, with the Flames intent on taking a 3-2 edge tomorrow night in Tampa, staying focused on the present is crucial to success.

 "We know that we haven't won anything yet," said Simon.

 Mental toughness at this stage might be the determining factor separating the Flames from the Lightning. It's been the mantra of head coach Darryl Sutter all season and has been underlined throughout the playoffs.

 "It's steady as she goes with this group," said Sutter, adding mental resiliency might be the team's greatest strength. "You go in the room after the game, you can't tell if they won or lost. That's how they handle it ... There's games where we've got our rear ends kicked in the playoffs and we have bounced right back"


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