Calgary goes Cup crazy

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:31 PM ET


 CALGARY -- Washington was a waste. Florida was fruitless. Carolina, Buffalo and Anaheim the same.

 They came. They gave it a go at going Cup Crazy. And wore it off like a defenceman's deodorant. It wasn't real. But what we're dealing with here, this is the real deal. This is going as Cup crazy as you can go before it even begins.

 The Flames may be the same sort of story as the Capitals, Panthers, Hurricanes, Sabres and Mighty Ducks, bottom feeders who bottled lightning and, against all odds, made it to the Stanley Cup final.

 But Calgary is definitely not the same sort of story as Washington, Florida, Carolina, Buffalo and Anaheim.

 All you had to do was stick your head out the door of the Saddledome an hour after the Flames had made it to the final for the first time since 1989 and you knew that.

 YOU COULD HEAR THE ROAR

 You could hear the roar from 'The Red Mile' a dozen blocks away on 17th Avenue, where 35,000 fans milled in the rain to create the largest street gathering in the entire history of the city.

 Calgary had gone eight years between playoff appearances and 15 years since winning a series, which just happened to be the Stanley Cup final against the Montreal Canadiens. One can only imagine what it might have been like if they hadn't won anything here since, oh, 1967.

 Maybe the Flames will follow the format and lose the final like all of the above, and then not make the playoffs the next year. But this is a hockey city and this is Canada and this is not going to go stale on the bedpost overnight.

 The Calgary Sun is producing a 48-page souvenir publication entitled 'Believe!'

 Subtitled 'Road To The Stanley Cup Final.'

 Like that would ever happen in Phoenix, Nashville, Columbus, Atlanta ...

 Funny the way it has come to work in Canada. Having a team in the final used to be expected. Heck, the other two times the Flames were in the final, they played the Montreal Canadiens. But it's been 10 years.

 And this is the area of Canada where we have been spoiled. Between the Edmonton Oilers and the Flames, nine of the last 11 Stanley Cup finals held in Canada have involved games on Alberta ice.

 But all those years of O Canada becoming 'No Canada' have baked an upside-down cake. It's made Canadians appreciate it. Don Cherry says Toronto couldn't care less about Calgary. That may have been true a week ago. But I can't believe it can be true now. This is too good to be true. This is a team which finished 22nd last year and bought in to the old 'all for one and one for all' deal, the old 'will vs. skill' scenario and became the first team ever to get to the final by knocking off all three division-title winners.

 And there's something to be said for the most unlikely of the Canadian clubs getting there instead of the one all those "national" commentators out of Toronto had carrying the Cup before the playoffs began. It just somehow manages to make the entire occasion much more marvellous.

 "We took out the top three seeds in the West. That's a great accomplishment," said Mike Commodore, the Fort Saskatchewan product with the huge mop of red clown hair which has inspired sales of hundreds of red wigs in Calgary.

 "The moral of the story is you can get 164 points in the regular season but when it comes to the playoffs it's about hard work, it's about warriors, it's about being mentally tough."

 Chris Clark said he likes that claim to fame.

 "Hopefully there's one more division champ we can beat," he said.

 PLAYERS WERE COMING CLEAN

 When it was over and the Flames had seized the series, players were finally coming clean.

 "I'm in a fog," said Sherwood Park's Andrew Ference. "That's exactly what I'm in."

 Speedster Shean Donovan told everybody how in the final minute "I was praying out there," and confessed, "I'll remember this forever."

 Isn't that the way you want it to be?

 Dave Lowry, the latest recipient of the green hard hat (the original, not the plastic ones for sale by the thousands at the souvenir stands now) as unsung hero, probably put it best.

 "What makes this special is that nobody would have thought this at the beginning of the season. Nobody!"


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