Attention definite disorder

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:54 PM ET

 A curious Krzysztof Oliwa wandered out of the shower area wearing nothing but lycra and a huge grin as a massive crowd surrounded his dressing-room stall.

 As cameramen jockeyed for position, it was quickly evident they wanted nothing to do with the Flames enforcer -- they were waiting for someone who flexes a little more muscle these days.

  As a handful of fully clothed Flames were then carted out as part of this carefully scripted photo-op, you could tell it was a big day. Andrew Ference put on his best T-shirt, Steve Reinprecht was sporting a new ball cap and Shean Donovan pulled on his favourite hoody.

 "I put my teeth in, too," grinned Donovan.

 Yes, the circus is back in town and with it came a visit from Prime Minister Paul Martin yesterday, which caught the players off guard following a long night of travel following their Game 2 loss.

 "When we came in, the two buses ahead of us were Tampa Bay's," said the PM, slipping on a Flames jersey from Jarome Iginla as more than two dozen cameras captured the awkward love-in.

 "I want you to know, we tried to slow them down."

 Funny, the Flames tried the same thing and were equally as unsuccessful Thursday in Tampa.

 "The whole country is rooting for you -- Edmonton is even cheering for you like you wouldn't believe," beamed Martin, before delivering a sobering sound bite.

 "The Flames and the Liberals are synonymous."

 While the size of their respective Seas of Red have changed dramatically of late, one look at the polls suggests the popularity of Canada's PM now pales in comparison to that of Canada's team.

 Thus, the bandwagon continues to grow as he latched on for the ol' grip-and-grin photos.

 It was just one example of the sort of trapping that comes with making it to the Stanley Cup final -- an opportunity that, while memorable, is rife with the type of distractions these players had not yet endured during their magical run.

 The 'Dome was transformed yesterday -- taken over by a horde of 250 media types from across North America who flew in from Tampa to document the scene.

 Security is being ramped up noticeably, the players' parking lot has been taken over by five major TV broadcasters and large clusters of fans are gathering outside the rink for endless autograph sessions with their hockey heroes.

 The players' cellphones are full of messages from well-wishers and ticket-seekers and their houses are equally as jammed with parents, in-laws, cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and friends who have arrived to take in this once-in-a-lifetime playoff run.

 Although the Flames met at a hotel last night for dinner and a sleepover, you have to wonder how all this will affect a team that had previously been ignored by the rest of the league and country for, well, 15 years.

 The focus and workmanlike attitude that got them this far was sorely lacking in Game 2 and there's genuine concern the players' eyes may have been taken off the prize by the sort of distractions most of the Flames have never dealt with before.

 "All these people are not hockey media -- that's for sure," laughed Ville Nieminen, who could have said the same thing in Tampa as news types gasped at the locker-room smell that has become second nature to jaded sports scribes.

 "I'm so excited. I can't believe it," added a gushing PM, genuinely pumped to meet a team that's captured the attention of a nation in a way he never could.

 "This has been a great thrill for me -- I have three sons, so I'm way up here."

 So are the Flames.

 And they'd better come down soon or all this attention will disappear as quickly as it arrived.


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