Those burning desires

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 4:25 PM ET


 CALGARY -- It's a full-fledged phenomenon.

 I mean, the 200-to-1 Calgary Flames being two games away from the Stanley Cup final is one thing.

 But Edmonton cheering for Calgary ...

 That's a whole 'nuther thing.

 "It's unheard of," said Andrew Ference, the Edmonton-born product who plays defence for the Flames and gets regular reports from north of the Mason-Dixon line, which used to run through the middle of a bar in Red Deer - Calgary fans on one side, Edmonton fans on the other.

 "I think it's wonderful."

 The ABCs of being an Edmonton sports fan used to translate to 'Anybody But Calgary.' But a guy goes to Prague to cover Canada at the World Hockey Championships and returns to find out some sort of warped April Fool's joke is being perpetrated here in the middle of May.

 Nobody told me. Sometime when I was away they apparently became the Alberta Flames.

 "My family keeps telling me about it. It's all positive feedback," says Ference.

 "My mom and dad both have a practice in Sherwood Park and they're getting that kind of reaction from everybody," he said of his dad the dentist and his mom the doctor. "They can't believe that everybody in Edmonton is cheering for the Flames. I'm getting that from everybody up there."

 EXPLODED WITH GREAT GLEE

 Indeed. Tuesday night in a Sherwood Park sports bar, about 100 hockey fans exploded with great glee when Calgary took a 2-0 lead over the San Jose Sharks, enroute to the 2-0 series lead the Flames take into Game 3 here tonight.

 "I think it relates to everything they've gone through down here, having been out of the playoffs for so many years. I think everybody just decided to heck with the rivalry and everything in the past between Edmonton and Calgary and decided they're proud to be Albertans and western Canadians.

 "Whatever, it's amazing," said Ference.

 Mike Commodore said he's getting the same sort of reports.

 "I'm from up there. I know all about the Edmonton-Calgary thing. And I'm hearing the same thing," said the Fort Saskatchewan product.

 Maybe it's because everybody loves an underdog, everybody loves a Cinderella story, he suggests. Even Edmonton.

 "Maybe it's because it's been so long since a Canadian team was in the Stanley Cup final," said Commodore in that sort of nasal way you talk through a broken nose.

 Maybe. You have to go back to the Canucks going seven with the Rangers in 1994.

 But apparently it's not universal, that sort of thinking, at least not in terms of "Centre of the Universe universal."

 NO WAY, SAYS CHERRY

 That great Canadian icon, Don Cherry, was quoted the other day as saying there is no way the Flames could become Canada's team.

 "Are you kidding?" he told the National Post. "You think the people in Toronto care about Calgary? I have a tough time, myself, to tell you the truth ... They're a good, hard-working team and the people of Calgary should be proud of them. But it could never be like Toronto."

 Maybe that's it. Maybe fans in Edmonton heard too many Toronto types planning a Cup parade when all this started this spring and snapped. Maybe it pushed Edmonton over the edge.

 "I've talked to people in Edmonton," said Martin Gelinas, the former Oiler who came to Edmonton as part of the Wayne Gretzky sale and won a Cup on the kid line with Adam Graves and Joe Murphy in 1990. "It's not everybody. But it sure sounds like it's almost everybody."

 Gelinas, who married an Edmonton girl, says he's getting feedback from the City of Champions (hey, come on, the Eskimos won the Grey Cup, the sign stays up).

 "I don't know what it is. I think it might be because we're the last Canadian city standing."

 Maybe, says St. Albert product Jarome Iginla, it's that if Edmonton fans can't be there, they're happy to see the suffering end and this city going absolutely nuts over what's happening here.

 "In the past, it's usually us who have been out of the playoffs."

 Iginla says don't try to explain it, Edmonton, enjoy it.

 "It's awesome," he said.

 If it feels good, do it, I guess.

 But just this once, huh?

 If this condition is contagious, it could change the sports column-writing business in Alberta beyond belief.


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