Road trip to Tampa

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:13 PM ET


 TAMPA -- It's an hour before puck drop at the St. Pete Times Forum in the unlikeliest locale for a Stanley Cup playoff game.

 The sun still pounds down on the throngs of fans gathered outside the stadium in a carnival atmosphere, apparently here as much for the spectacle as the sport.

 In the middle of the mayhem is the Puddle of Red, a few dozen Flames fans temporarily separated from the raging Sea back home, enjoying a hockey vacation in the Sunshine State.

 "It cost us $1,000 to fly down here but it's worth it," shouts Neil Guenter, 25, a Calgary geologist, sweat dripping from under his Mike Commodore wig.

 "We got our tickets online, the same way we tried to get tickets in Calgary but couldn't. We got these tickets in seconds."

 Like good Canadians, Guenter and cousin Darrell Guenter -- both proudly wearing Flames jerseys -- were standing in line to buy huge cups of ice-cold beer.

 Brian Maksymetz, another Calgarian, is lapping up the atmosphere, marvelling at the friendly fans.

 He even scored Don Cherry's autograph.

 "The people of Tampa have been great hosts," says Maksymetz, who estimates there were about 100 Flames fans at last night's game.

 "They might not understand the game as well as us but the crowd inside is almost as loud as the Saddledome."


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