Drats the ticket

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:22 PM ET


 SAN JOSE -- It's been more than six weeks since Ron MacLean -- the Calgary Flames' most famous season-ticket holder -- elected to forego purchasing his playoff ducats.

 Because of it, the affable broadcaster is still on the hot seat.

 "It was funny because at the start of the playoffs, I thought, 'Well, there's so much interest, we'll give up our tickets and people will appreciate that because that'll make them available,' " said the Hockey Night in Canada host, who bought two tickets for the Adopt-a-Team program during the club's Save Our Flames campaign a few years back despite living in Toronto.

 "All my buddies in Red Deer gave me hell immediately and my wife's dad is really ticked at us for giving up our playoff tickets."

 While the family reunion in his native Red Deer this summer may not be as warm and fuzzy an affair as it has been in the past, MacLean is pleasantly surprised by the Flames' shocking playoff run. And like a true season-ticket holder, he now truly believes the Flames have the horses to, gulp, win the city's first Stanley Cup since 1989.

 "Calgary's chances are excellent and (Miikka) Kiprusoff is probably the biggest reason why," said MacLean, who travelled with Don Cherry and the Hockey Night in Canada crew from San Jose to Calgary yesterday.

 "To tell you the truth, I love their defence. (Steve) Montador and (Mike) Commodore -- you can't say enough about how they've played. They went up against Vancouver's Mattias Ohlund and Ed Jovanovski and then Detroit's Mathieu Schneider and Nicklas Lidstrom and they've proven that if you can handle Vancouver and Detroit's defence, you can handle pretty much everything.

 "Maybe Calgary's defence doesn't get enough coverage."

 If so, that might just be HNIC's fault as everyone in Calgary is up to speed on just how brilliantly the Flames blueliners have played.

 Thing is, despite MacLean's western roots and bias, the broadcast team surrounding him is still trying to find ways to attract eastern Canadians to Canada's Team.

 "The only thing that's hard to sell -- and it's got nothing to do with Calgary -- is this conference finals schedule. There's just no rhythm," said MacLean of the juxtaposition between the late West Coast games and the early starts in the east.

 "We are just in a funk here with the TV start times and it's based around the NBA and, half the time, wrestling, tractor pulls ... I think (fans are) on board but with

 10 p.m. starts, it's hard for a city on the move. Most people in Toronto are in their cars at 6 a.m., so it's really tough to stay up. If there's a reason why the ratings aren't what they might be with an eastern-based team, that would be the excuse."

 Other than that, he thinks the appeal of the gritty Flames would be universal.

 "God, Calgary is a team obviously everybody has taken to -- if you walk in and beat Detroit, you become a national favourite," he said.

 "The team itself ... Jarome Iginla is a star. Kipper is a star and it's kind of the Canadian way to admire Darryl Sutter's work ethic. Cardiac stuff.

 "That four-goal rally against Vancouver ... They have everything going for them except the start times."

 His in-laws and pals out west don't seem to mind the start times at all -- other than the fact they're not in the building when the puck is dropped.


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