Bang for the bucks

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:21 PM ET


 The Calgary Flames' improbable playoff run could make a perfect Mastercard commercial. Proving success in the NHL is, in fact, 'priceless.'

 The MLB, the only other of the four major North American sports without a salary cap, has long been ruled by the big spenders, especially the New York Yankees.

 The New York Rangers have tried to follow a similar blueprint, with laughably poor results.

 In hockey, though, there's always a penny-pinching team that seems to catch lightning in a bottle at the right time and goes on the ride of its life. This year, it's the Calgary Flames.

 "I think it shows a small-market team can definitely win," defenceman Mike Commodore said of the team's success. "It doesn't matter about the lineups and what the payroll is when it comes down to playoffs. It's about hard work and determination."

 The Flames payroll, at roughly $36 million, is less than half of the superstar-stocked Red Wings.

 Nonetheless, Commodore says, it comes down to a simple belief in a common goal.

 "When the playoffs began, we believed we could beat Vancouver. We beat Vancouver," he said. "We came up against Detroit and we believed we could beat them, too. It's not a series that's going to be easy but we believed we could win. The fans in Calgary have gotten behind us. They believe we can do it, too, and we've been riding the wave."

 Blueliner Steve Montador, who, like Commodore, began the post-season journey as a member of the reserves but has been pressed into duty by a rash of injuries, says payrolls go out the window in the playoffs.

 "I don't think we're the poster team for anything other than hard work," Montador said. "I guess you can look at it as good business. Smart business people making good decisions. Other teams might look at the variables and see us in that position. But we're just a team that believes in each other and in our management."

 Bigger payrolls translate into more stars in the lineup and the Wings may have more than any team in the league.

 But, as rookie forward Matthew Lombardi notes, everyone in his dressing room is playing for the Flaming C on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back.

 "Whether it's a small market or big, you have to have guys going in the same direction," Lombardi says. "We're not a bunch of individuals, we're a team."


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