National support

By BILL LAYE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

 Toronto's Leaf legions may think they're tops, but the Calgary Flames are Canada's fastest-rising hockey stars.

From east to west, north to south, the local lunch-bucket boys are winning over hockey fans.

Indeed, Flames fever is burning particularly bright under the Yukon's midnight sun, says a Whitehorse pub manager.

"We're Vancouver fans, but now they're gone, so we're on the Calgary bandwagon," said Bob Park, of the Gold Pan Saloon, located in Whitehorse's Best Western Gold Rush Inn.

There aren't too many Canadian bandwagons left to jump on, now that Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal are all out of it.

So, it now falls to either Toronto or upstart Calgary to bring Lord Stanley's hardware north.

And though the Flames bounced the pride-of-the-province Vancouver Canucks out of the standings, there's really no hard feelings in the B.C. Interior, says Sue Joyce, manager of the Inlander Pub in Kamloops.

"I'd say most want to see Calgary get in," she said yesterday.

And while it's true they're facing the Flyers at a slight series disadvantage, the Maple Leafs aren't going down without a fight, says Mike Stortini, manager of Healey's in Toronto.

"The Leafs are still alive and well," he said, adding, contrary to popular belief, Torontonians really don't bear Calgary any ill-will.

But in Saskatchewan, it's more half-and-half when it comes to hockey loyalties. The crowd at the Broken Cue Sports Lounge in Saskatoon is in a state of flux, says assistant manager, Al Zit.

"The guys in our bar are pretty much cheering for Toronto, (but) we had a whole crew of people the other night who were cheering for Calgary," he said.

Michele Bauer of Winnipeg's Tee-Off Sports Bar also opts for the non-partisan approach.

"I just try to do what I can do for my customers," she said.

"They're always wanting me to put on the game."


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