'Welcome to Swaggerville'

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

They swallowed up Festival Plaza in a sea of red, their Senators pride running almost as hot as the searing Thursday afternoon.

"Welcome to Swaggerville," Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien exclaimed as he gazed out upon the sun-baked crowd of 10,000 who spilled out across Laurier Ave. -- and beyond.

This is a city that, quite emphatically, made its point clear yesterday. That it is ready to embrace what many would call the greatest sporting triumph they'll ever see.

The fans were in full roar, turning out in numbers that overwhelmed even the most ardent of Sens supporters.

"It was amazing," said Cameron Bishop, co-organizer of the group that led the charge to proclaim Elgin St. the Sens Mile. "It was great to see all those people coming out.

"Everyone is so proud of the boys right now, and it's great to see."

They wasted little time filling up two large posters with well-wishes (they'll hang at Scotiabank Place). And they cheered loudly when a 60-feet red Senators banner was unfurled across the front of City Hall.

"To see them hang that Ottawa Senators flag on City Hall ... it's fantastic," said Jennifer Zito, who spent her lunch hour at the rally with friends Danielle Plunkett and Teri Kinnunen.

Inside City Hall, it's officially a Duck-free zone. So said a proclamation read by the mayor, who also spelled out what a hockey-mad community is thirsting for.

"The Stanley Cup was born here in Ottawa in 1892," said O'Brien. "It's time for a family reunion. Let's bring Stanley home."

While none of the team's players appeared at the rally, several Sens alumni -- Ron Tugnutt, Brad Marsh, Rob Murphy, Shaun Van Allen and original captain Laurie Boschman -- drew hearty cheers from the throng.

'ALFIE, ALFIE'

There was also a warm welcome for the Senators' three founding fathers -- Bruce Firestone, Randy Sexton and Cyril Leeder, the team's current chief operation officer. Firestone inspired a round of 'Alfie, Alfie' chants when he spoke about captain Daniel Alfredsson.

"He's an Olympic gold medallist," said Firestone. "Now he wants the Stanley Cup more than anyone on this planet."

Yesterday's bash is sure to be the first of many outpourings of emotion during the next two weeks. Hockey has most definitely brought the city together in a way only Canada's game can.

"It's something that can unite everyone in the city," said Plunkett.

Added Kinnunen: "It's a magical time right now ... the city has come alive."


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