Ring leaders

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:12 PM ET


 As a team, the Calgary Flames may seem like newcomers to the Stanley Cup final.

 Yet there's no shortage of experience among the players.

 Just ask Shean Donovan, who is surrounded by Cup champions in the dressing room.

 To his left sits Ville Nieminen, a 2001 winner.

 To his right is big Chris Simon, an NHL champion in 1996.

 And one more stall to Donovan's right is another Cup champ, Martin Gelinas.

 "There's a ton of experience in here," said Donovan, his head on a swivel to locate the team's ring-bearers in the dressing room.

 "There's quite a few guys with Cups in here. There's Chris and Ville and Marty and Stephane Yelle ... There's guys who some people don't realize or might forget, like Roman Turek.

 "So we won't be too green."

 Far from it.

 In fact, the Flames' roster features nearly twice the rings of their final foe, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

 The Lightning boasts Cup champs Tim Taylor ('97 Detroit Red Wings), Darryl Sydor ('99 Dallas Stars) and Chris Dingman ('01 Colorado Avalanche), while Brad Lukowich played eight games during that '99 run with the Stars.

 Meanwhile, the Flames have seven NHL champions on their roster.

 Yelle has won the Cup twice ('96 and '01 Colorado Avalanche) and each of Gelinas ('90 Edmonton Oilers), Simon ('96 Avalanche), Nieminen ('01 Avalanche), Turek ('99 Dallas Stars), Krzysztof Oliwa (2000 New Jersey Devils) and Steven Reinprecht ('01 Avalanche) have won it once.

 "It does bring confidence," said Flames playoff rookie Mike Commodore.

 "Guys like Yeller or Simon, when they do say something, I find myself listening maybe more than I would usually. They talk about how to prepare."

 Added fellow defenceman Jordan Leopold: "Some of those guys aren't real vocal in the locker-room. But when they do speak, we listen. And we just kind of go out there and follow their lead."

 That's the case now more than ever.

 Despite three rounds of successful hockey against division champions from Vancouver, Detroit and San Jose, the Cup final brings a whole new set of challenges.

 "Now you look at Yeller or Marty and see what they're doing," Donovan said.

 "They've had a couple of days before their finals before, so you just wonder what they do. Do they just relax -- go home and rest? Or do they work out? Those guys like Marty and Yeller are in there working out and making sure they're ready.

 "And you see them in practice being all business -- they're not fooling around. So everybody can take a little bit from them."

 But not too much, says Nieminen. After all, the Flames have managed to find their way to the Stanley Cup final. It wasn't just the experience of one, two or even seven savvy guys pacing this proud run. It's taken all 30 players in the room.

 "It's a little bit overrated that we are bringing some experience and that we are telling guys what it takes to win," Nieminen said. "We should know by now what we do out there. Right now, it's better if you worry about your own play. I don't tell the guys what they should do. But, at the same time, you can't take it for granted. The young guys in their first or second or third year, it might be their only chance."


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