Sun stunt helps Sens soar

HOLLY LAKE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 3:25 PM ET


 The Ottawa Sun snuck into Leaf Nation yesterday and launched a bold, pre-emptive strike deep in the heart of enemy territory.

 As the Battle of Ontario heats up into what's expected to be an all-out war when the Leafs and Sens face off tomorrow, the Sun added fuel to the fire by flying a plane over downtown Toronto for an hour at lunchtime pulling a banner proclaiming: "Leafs Suck. Go Sens Go."

 It caught the eye of thin-skinned Leaf fans, many of whom called MOJO Radio's Leaf Lunch demanding hosts Jeff Marek and (former Leafs assistant general manager) Bill Watters use their clout to have the plane shot down.

 "Nerves are pretty close to the skin when it comes to Ottawa," said Marek. "But good for the guerrilla style of the capital. It's one thing to put a flag on your Honda Civic, it's another thing to rent a plane."

 So was he impressed? "Oh God, yeah. Without insulting Leaf fans, how do you top that? It's above and beyond. It's not like we could light Parliament Hill on fire or storm it."

 Marek initially thought Ottawa's Team 1200 station might have been behind the banner. When told it was the Sun, he asked: "Was Bruce Garrioch flying it?" No, but Toronto Sun columnist Mike Strobel was in hot pursuit in another plane. "You got a tailgun in this thing?" he asked his pilot.

 Strobel claimed our buzz of Toronto's big tower with a 115-ft. banner was a result of Ottawa's inferiority complex -- on and off the ice. CN Tower: 553 metres high. Peace Tower: 92.

 Well, that's hardly the reason behind our "childishness." (Strobel's word, not ours!) Sun editor-in-chief Rick Gibbons said the plan to send Toronto a clear message on behalf of our readers has been shrouded in secrecy for weeks.

 CITY 'PROUD OF THEIR TEAM'

 "It's time to get behind this team," he said. "This city is proud of their team and we're not afraid to fly that message right into enemy territory."

 The Senators certainly had no issues with the fly-by.

 "It's important for everybody to have a positive attitude going into a playoff series," said team president Roy Mlakar, who had a good laugh when informed of the Sun's sneak attack. "This is definitely great to get this kind of support."

 So should Ottawans be ready for retaliatory Leaf bombs? Mayor Bob Chiarelli doesn't think so. "This is defence headquarters here," he said. "We have weapons that will take aircraft out of the air."

 As for Peter Yoo, the Skywords pilot who dragged the Sens banner, he spent the afternoon holed up in his office at Buttonville Airport dodging the flak for flying enemy colours.

 "Everybody's giving me looks here in the office," he said. "I have my door shut ... with a 'Do Not Disturb' sign on it."

 Having taken extra precautions to make sure he "wasn't going to get shot down," Yoo said this was his first and last Sens banner. He admits, as a Leafs fan in a city of diehards, it's a lot to live down.

 "Hopefully, time will heal all," Yoo said. "Maybe I'll get out of the country for a while."

 -- With files from Bruce Garrioch


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