Don’t Be Sad, Calgary
Calgary lost, yes. But there’s still plenty to be happy about.
Consider that the Flames actually outscored the Stanley Cup champs 14-13 in the final series—and that doesn’t include Martin Gelinas’ phantom fourth series-winning goal. The puck was over the line, for sure, but it doesn’t count unless the referee or goal judge sees it go in, so there’s not much anyone can do about it. It is just a testament to how close this series was: the last four games were all decided by one goal.
And, in the end, the city of Calgary did more than just throw up their hands in dismay. After getting over the initial shock of the overtime loss in Game Six, they left their respective living rooms, bar stools and curbside stoops to march up and down 17th Avenue. They obeyed the directional flow of traffic as they made their rounds from the main drag outside Melrose’s to the impromptu hip hop concert near 11th Street and enjoyed the myriad of strangeness in between.
Regardless of the result, the party raged on, the hope of Game Seven driving chants of “Go Flames Go!” and “Fuck Tampa Bay!” The feminists made a comeback, answering requests to lift their shirts with cries of “Flames rock! Show us your cock!” There were no cocks unsheathed, but there were breasts gleefully displayed, pink nipples pointing defiantly at red-shirted youths, sometimes bouncing shoulder-top above the crowd for all to see and enjoy. Whether this contributed to the fetishization of breasts seemed to matter less to these fans than the disappointing score of the game. The fans in Calgary got into the playoffs like people who live in trailers get into NASCAR (speaking of rednecks, even the Trailer Park Boys made an appearance at the Saddledome, as did Stephen Harper).
I’m not sure the entire country was really rallying around the Flames, but it was nice to see Ville Nieminen singing “O Canada” along with Brooke Hogan (the Hulkster’s daughter). Even if you count that crazy Finn among Calgary’s Canucks, the Lightning still come out on top, with fourteen Canadian players participating in the finals to the Flames’ eleven (ten if you discount Ville).
Still, I’m not sure where all the jubilant partiers came from (probably Calgary mostly). Judging from the crowd on 17th Avenue after Game Six, Flames fans come in all colours: old ladies in pink scarves carrying garbage bags full of recyclable bottles and cans; young bucks in green hard hats signing the breasts of young ladies; gold-tasselled belly dancers; bare-chested punks, covered head to toe in magic-marker tattoos; face-painted, pig-tailed girls on piggyback; preteens dressed in tennis skirts; maple-leaf-caped revellers wearing giant blonde afros; fourth-rate amateur guitarists; beer-can nationalists waving flags from SUVs; a Darth Maul wannabe dipping and diving around a misshapen, but flame-throwing, twelve-foot Stanley Cup replica; old guys in satin bathrobes; bandana-hippy bongo drummers; leopard-skin bicycle cowboys; dogs; and babies.
Unfortunately I had to leave Cowtown the afternoon after Game Six, but I suppose it was just as well, as the disappointment of the final loss would have been too much to bear in the heart of it all. Sitting in my parents’ basement in neutral (and only a little jealous) Toronto, the sting was soothed. In fact, it is hard not to feel good about Tampa’s win: 2-1 in the final game, 4-3 in the series. There are several feel-good stories on the Florida side of things:
Dave Andreychuk won his first ever hockey championship, and I mean first ever. He had never been on a winning team, not in high school, not house league, not midget hockey, never. I’ve been on two championship hockey teams and I can barely skate: I was the manager for the 1994-95 TDCAA junior high school champion St. Michael’s “Baby” Blues and I played on the St. Mike’s house league champion “Buzzers” that year as well. So, I still have more hockey titles than Andreychuk.
His former Buffalo Sabres teammate (this would explain the lack of championships) Craig Ramsayl won his first Stanley Cup also, as the Lightning’s associate coach. In a pre-game interview, Tim Taylor (who won the Cup previously with the Detroit Red Wings) said he wanted to win it for his kids. Brad Richards is from PEI, and if you’ve ever been to the Island, you’ll know how special it is when one of theirs wins the big one. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier proved that Quebec can produce more than all-star goalies. I think fans in PEI and Quebec would question which team was “Canada’s team.”
Meanwhile, all this talk about how the looming lockout/strike needs to address the issue of teams “buying” championships is perhaps a bit of a spin from the players union. The emphasis on the business side reared its rodentish head at the end of the playoffs, when Gary Bettman —the ratlike commissioner of the NHL who is always so insistent that it’s what’s on the ice that matters most—congratulated the Tampa Bay owners first for the Cup win. He claimed that a winning team starts with good ownership. I hope that what he meant was that a team committed to winning first will be rewarded with a long playoff season, and the dollars that come with that. Because as it stands, the owners’ stance seems to be: it is our right to make money above all else (including entertaining hockey fans with good players and a game that lets those players show off their talents).
So that’s it for this season! I will have more to say on the lockout/strike/rule change situation and upcoming awards later this summer, as well as coverage of the World Cup—perhaps the last professional hockey we may see for a while. Regardless of the labour situation, The Masochist will be here every second Wednesday all summer long (starting June 16). So be here or don’t be here at all . . .
John Lofranco is a Montreal-based writer, teacher and distance runner. The Masochist gets rough in the corners June 16 and every second Wednesday thereafter.