'Peg can dare to dream about winning Cup

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

WINNIPEG - They handed out the Stanley Cup in Vancouver last night, sparking a celebration thatíll last for a while.

Today, competition begins for the next one. And for the first time in 15 years, Winnipeg is in the race.

So allow us to fantasize, for a minute, what it would be like here in the Land That Championships Forgot, to wind up on top, for a change.

That may be difficult, given the 20-year drought of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the 32-year famine since the last pro hockey title.

But itís not going to stop us from trying.

So letís peek into the crystal ball and see what íthe Peg might be like for sports fans in the (distant?) future...

(insert dreamy harp music, here)

Itís noon on a warm, muggy day in June, but mosquitoes arenít a problem in downtown Winnipeg these days.

The environmentally friendly control program in effect the last two decades only gets part of the credit. Winnipeggers, it seems, are just too damn happy to even notice the little buggers.

On this day, the entire city seems to be wearing one, big, face-eating grin.

The brand new office towers along Portage Avenue look like theyíve grown hundreds of tiny arms, every window overflowing with humanity, as hands wave towels, flags, anything carrying the logo of this burgeoning prairie cityís pro hockey team.

Down in the street below, a line of convertibles from bygone days, some as far back as the 1990s, is smothered by ticker-tape, each vehicle carrying a member of the Stanley Cup champion.

Itís a scene the oldtimers around here couldnít have fathomed in the early part of the century, as this once hard-luck town didnít even have an NHL franchise.

Now, itís not only part of the club, itís King of the Hill, finally giving hockey fans a feeling of equality with their gridiron brethren.

Yes, the days of the Manitoba drought seem like an eternity ago, in more ways than one.

Not only have the two great lakes, Winnipeg and Manitoba, merged after decades of above-normal precipitation, so, too, have the two great sports, as River City now boasts the CFL and NHL champions ó footballís Blue Bombers having reigned for a franchise record-setting three consecutive years.

Toss in two titles in the last four years by the independent baseball team, and thereís no doubt sports fans here have never had it so good.

Edmonton, City of Champions? Yeah, right.

ďItís a great day in Winnerpeg!Ē Mayor Ryan Hosegood, grandson of legendary Blue Bomber quarterback Ken Ploen, told tens of thousands gathered at Portage and Main before the parade.

Not only are Winnipegís teams beating up on the rest of the globe ó defeating the Stockholm Scorpions in the Stanley Cup Final was a particularly nice touch, given this cityís history with Swedish players ó theyíre padding their bank accounts while doing it.

You think three years of sellouts at the expanded, 20,000-seat downtown arena is impressive? The Bombers havenít had an empty seat at their nifty U of M campus playpen in five years.

ďItís all a little surreal,Ē Hosegood said.

ďMy grandfather used to tell me about championship droughts that lasted decades in football, even longer in hockey. I canít even imagine it.Ē

Come to think of it, neither can I.


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