Seems like yesterday

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:18 PM ET


 It's like 1989 all over again.

 Sort of. Joel Otto, the overtime hero, is now Martin Gelinas.

 Lanny McDonald, the win-one-for-the-Gipper veteran, is now Dave Lowry.

 And the post-game, post-series celebrations have moved six blocks to the south from Electric Avenue to 17th Ave.

 OK, so 15 years have brought about a few changes.

 Gelinas has tripled Otto's game-winning contributions, Lowry has not quite achieved the legendary status of McDonald and the street parties have grown to 30,000-plus fans.

 But it still smacks of similarity, especially the excitement.

 "It sure seems like it's a lot more of a party than it was back in '89," said Stanley Cup champion Jim Peplinski.

 "I can think of few more things that you can do to make it more emotional.

 "It was 5,000 fans on Electric Avenue. Now it's 35,000 on 17th. It used to be a big lineup for tickets. Now it's a big lineup and people jamming the Internet for tickets. And now there's the tail-gate parties.

 "The one thing we had was thousands of fans waiting for us at the airport when we returned home. But since 9/11, you can't do that the same way."

 No matter, because the Flames are winning games the same way they did 15 years ago.

 And most of the wins were made possible by an OT goal in Game 7 against the Canucks -- again just like in '89.

 "The toughest round to win is the first round and that overtime goal against Vancouver changed the direction for us," said Peplinski's teammate Colin Patterson, recalling Otto's OT clincher.

 "It was unbelievable relief. That goal put everybody at ease."

 And onward to the club's first Stanley Cup victory.

 As for McDonald, he was a Flames' folk hero, win or lose.

 But his hoist of the coveted chalice made that year's celebration all that much more special for the Flames and their fans.

 Patterson remembers sitting and talking with McDonald in the dressing room at the Montreal Forum before Game 6 of the '89 final.

 "He said to me, 'I scored my first goal here and I'd love to score my last goal here,' " Patterson said.

 "Turned out it was his last goal -- vintage Lanny, racing in on Patrick Roy and scoring top-shelf."

 And it clinched the Cup.

 But that was an expected win -- overdue, in fact.

 A handful of seasons among the league's elite made the Flames a contender throughout the late '80s.

 The capper was the Cup.

 In contrast, a score of Stanley this spring -- by a team that missed the playoffs the seven previous seasons -- would be quite the pleasant surprise.

 "That's the key difference between then and now," Patterson said.

 "We probably should have won a couple of years before '89. I don't think there is that kind of pressure on this year's team."

 Indeed, it's a group of players who are proving anything can be accomplished in the right light.

 "They're a beacon of hope this year," Peplinski added.

 "This organization is allowing people to see that they can crystallize their visions in their own field. It's like if the Flames can do it, maybe they can, too." 


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