Fire-ing line

RICK BELL -- CAlgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:13 PM ET

 No Pleasantville on this Prairie this day. No. More like Bedlam on the Bow.

 They stand in the snow and in the cold, hundreds with their tents and their sleeping bags and their beat-up blankets and their munchies and their Lucky extra strong beer and their microwave meals in an undigested mess and their bonfire blazing in a nearby barrel.

  They stand, some stayed all night, many more than days ago, as the mercury inside the stalwarts far exceeds the icy temperatures on the outside.

 By early morning, the long line for the last remaining tickets gets longer, with latecomers swelling the ranks of shivering supporters.

 "Let Us In! Let Us In!" chants the crowd, hoping to get inside the 'Dome and escape the chill.

 When that doesn't work it's "Beer Tent! Beer Tent!" followed by "Flames in Six! Flames in Six!"

 An hour before the ticket wickets open, the Flames dole out dozens upon dozens of delicious doughnuts, a peace offering to the patient.

 "This is like Christmas and the millennium and the Stampede all rolled into one. It's a hockey happening," says Rollie Cyr, who lined up for the very first Flames game in Calgary 24 years ago and is now the sales vice-president and head honcho of hype for the hometown team.

 Soon it is obvious Rollie is going to have to be the bearer of bad news. There are many more people in line than there are tickets. He walks more than halfway down the queue and tells those behind the cutoff they are probably out of luck.

 A couple fans leave. A few minutes later Rollie addresses the assembled again. "We'd love to give everybody a ticket, but it's not going to happen." Another couple leave.

 Rollie is like the junior high teacher where the class just won't listen.

 Terry Hern hangs in, looking for the long shot. His son Lee was less than a year old when the Flames won the Cup.

 Terry reverentially refers to '89 as The Year.

 Um ... remember the doughnuts? They're flying through the air. Pastry projectiles.

 Ken King, Flames prez, wades into the crowd. In his words,the fans are "clamouring for a piece of the emotion."

 A wise guy yells: "It's like he's Jesus. Parting the Red Sea."

 Mr. D, a cool character from radio's VIBE98.5, offers more doughnuts saying "I'm here for hip-hop and hockey."

 No more doughnuts go out. "Good idea, bad idea," says King.

 Fans still scurry down the hill to line up. The team block off the back of the existing line with yellow police tape and put Connor from security to guard the perimeter.

 No one gets past Connor.

 Jim Peplinski appears to cheers. "I'm so naive. Driving up I first wondered what was happening. I'm going to always remember this morning," says the former Flame.

 Kurtis Gerein, a Canucklehead, gets the first ticket. He arrived half-past six Thursday night.

 "We decided to give the Flames a little bit of a run since they hadn't been in for awhile. Six games was apparently still too fast, so it'll be seven and out." He is booed.

 Debbie Mains gets the final seat. Debbie remembers being in an Electric Avenue bar when '89 became The Year.

 "I feel lucky. Besides, I have stamina," says Debbie, confessing she's a year or two older than the average age in attendance for this outing.

 Yes, there are also the inevitable stories of those pushed in the line, losing their place and a chance to see tonight's game. Our Rollie takes their names and numbers and puts them on the top of the list for the next round.


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