Lanny's lovin' it!

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:33 PM ET


 Before anyone in Calgary gets too nostalgic and starts comparing the Flames' current Cup run to that of 1989, consider the man who became the face of it all figures there are few similarities.

 Lanny McDonald, who co-captained the Flames to their first and only Stanley Cup

 15 years ago, is now a faithful fan of Darryl Sutter's bunch but is convinced comparisons are futile.

 "I totally think they are," said McDonald, who has attended almost every Flames game since he returned from the world hockey championship.

 "The only similarity was Round 1 when they beat Vancouver in overtime in

 Game 7 -- we did that, too, and both times the good guys won. Other than that, in 1989, we were the favourites -- these guys certainly weren't."

 Blessed with talents such as Al MacInnis, Joe Mullen, Doug Gilmour, Joel Otto, Theo Fleury, Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Suter, among others, Terry Crisp's Flames had the league's top powerplay unit, second-best penalty killers and plenty of playoff experience stemming from a loss in the 1986 Stanley Cup final.

 Fast forward to today's bunch, which had relatively no playoff experience and was just hoping to make the playoffs for the first time in eight years, never mind beat anybody or advance to the final.

 "Even with the crowd, it was kind of like, 'Nice play, boys, keep going,' " laughed McDonald of the corporate set that golf-clapped (OK, it was a little rowdier than that) his powerhouse club through the '80s.

 "I don't think it was anywhere near as loud in '89 as what we experienced at the 'Dome (Wednesday) night. Even dating back to the first playoff game this year, during the warmup and the start of the game ... oh my God."

 Much of that has to do with the new generation of fans which has descended on the 'Dome -- after years of frustration and maybe even shame, it's once again cool to be a Flames fan.

 "It's great for the younger generation -- the crowd now is younger, louder and more boisterous," said McDonald, whose moustached mug is still the city's most recognizable. "My two boys, who were too young to remember '89, are living for this."

 One look at the Sea of Red that dominates the 'Dome as well as city streets these days, it's easy to see why the club's new jersey is poised to eclipse an NHL record for sales.

 "This is the magical run of all time," said the

 51-year-old Hanna boy, one of many active alumni thrilled to see hockey stealing the show again.

 "Not only are they advancing but momentum is building in the city. It's wonderful to see. You're downtown and everywhere you go, from hospitals to offices people are wearing T-shirts and jerseys. There were 30,000 people on 17th Avenue last night, not to mention 3,000 or 4,000 downtown and there's no serious damage being done. No one is turning over cars or vandalizing -- it's just good clean fun."

 On top of the fact his team thrived on skill while Sutter's club is all about heart, McDonald says another difference between the two Cup charges stems from a sense of urgency he figures the current team has.

 "When we lost in the final in 1986, we just thought, 'Oh well, we'll be back there next year,' " said the Hall-of-Famer, who retired after winning the Cup and scoring 500 goals with Toronto, Colorado and Calgary.

 "Hey, it took three years with great clubs for us to get another chance. It doesn't happen very often. Remember, both San Jose and Calgary didn't make the playoffs last year. That's how thin a line it is. You're there and you have to take advantage of it and I'm sure with guys like Martin Gelinas and Rhett Warrener (who've been to three and two previous finals respectively), Darryl (Sutter) will talk about that."

 So, can this bunch finish the same way the '89 team did?

 "People ask, 'Can they win?' Well, hold on a second -- they just beat out the top three seeds," said McDonald.

 "Do they have a chance? Not only do they have a chance, they have a great chance."

 Funny, that's what they said in '89.


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