The Stanley Cup playoffs are usually more about teams than towns.
Not this year.
Not in Canada.
Take Vancouver. Please.
They've always been a bit weird out on the wet coast. But when the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Edmonton Oilers in the final regular-season game to finish first in the division, there were honking horns as fans paraded hanging out of windows waving Canuck flags.
And the headline the next morning in the Vancouver Province, in world war III-sized type proclaimed 'We Are The Champions.'
First in a five-team division. Third in the Western Conference. We are the champions? They're loony in Lotus Land.
Going into the Stanley season, there are more store windows painted and decorated with Canuck themes in Vancouver than I can recall for the 1994 Stanley Cup final when Vancouver lost in seven to the New York Rangers and fans rioted on Robson.
There's riot potential there this year as a result of the suspension of Todd Bertuzzi. There's the perception the referees are against them now because of Bertuzzi. If the Canucks lose because of the usual reasons (Dan Cloutier in goal) maybe they'll go away like usual. If not ...
Take Calgary. Yes, please.
After seven seasons out of the playoffs, the scene in Cowtown is going to be more the story than Darryl Sutter's Flames, no contest.
This is going to be total celebration. It already is.
Every five minutes, on the station which provides the Flames games, play-by-play man Peter Maher's signature call 'Yeah, Baby!' is played again and again and again.
Flames sweaters are flying off the shelves, a ticket is to be treasured for the first time in ages and there's talk of the bar scene in Calgary during both home and away playoff games being beyond anything ever witnessed in the Stampede City.
One can only imagine what it would be like if the Flames win a game (or two!) in Vancouver for openers or what it could be like if the Flames give Calgary the first playoff series win since they won the Stanley Cup back in 1989.
Then there's Ottawa.
This should be all about getting to the Stanley Cup final. But it's all about getting past Toronto. And it's not just about the fourth time in five years they've played this series, it's about Hockey Night in Canada and the Leaf fans who live in Ottawa and wear all those blue sweaters to games.
The Ottawa mayor's ridiculous idea to ban Toronto jerseys from the building aside, the centre of the universe syndrome affects the Ottawa fan more than any other.
It's Leafs, Leafs, Leafs in prime time on Hockey Night in Canada despite one of the best teams in hockey up the highway, which you'd think, like the Buffalo Sabres, were on the other side of the border with the way they've been ignored. Worse, there's the obvious-to-everybody-in-the-country preference of the on-air people for the Leafs. No, this is so much more about Ottawa than it is the players wearing the Senators uniforms. At least for starters.
They've had this Stanley Cup won all season, of course. They've done everything but hold the parade down Yonge Street.
It's a corporate crowd so there isn't likely to be any scene to savour, but that's what you get when a seat at Air Canada Centre costs more than a seat on Air Canada.
But Toronto, before it is anything else, is a hockey city. And behind the bravado is the realization that this team is getting old, that there isn't likely to be a hockey season next year and that when there is a next season the landscape is going to change, and dramatically, to level the playing field.
LONG, LONG TIME AGO
That and 1967, the last time the Maple Leafs won a Stanley Cup, was a long, long time ago.
I was there two years ago for the Canadiens first game in the playoffs in Montreal in 1,446 days.
In the previous 56 years they'd only missed the playoffs three times. You had to go back to the Twenties to find the last time they'd missed three years in a row.
They waved towels that night. They don't wave towels in Montreal. A crowd of 21,273 sang O Canada as loud and proud in both languages as I've ever heard it there before. There was Saku Koivu coming back from cancer and Jose Theodore standing on his head in goal and ...
You can't expect that scene as Montreal gets back in after missing last year. Then again, it's Boston again. It's the 145th time these two Original Six teams have met in the Stanley Cup playoffs. And while Montreal hasn't gone gaga over this team, if the Canadiens come back from Boston with a win ...
Montreal, like Edmonton, is always an amazing place to watch a playoff hockey game.
Ah, yes. Edmonton.
Damn, what a year to pick to be out of the playoffs.
Got the fever bad, eh!
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
, Last Updated: 5:58 PM ET