SYDNEY-At the final buzzer, we watched and mourned. The Tampa Bay Lightning jumping off the bench, congratulating themselves for winning the 2004 Stanley Cup.
Even as far as Sydney, Australia, Canadians were in mourning. As a nation, we mourn the loss of another chance to bring hockey's holy grail home. With fellow ex-pat Calgarians, we lament at how close we came to tasting the sweetness of vindication after 14 years of being Canada's whipping-boy of weakness. This ended on a final buzzer at the St. Petersburg Times Forum when the dream was at hand, and then it was snatched away.
We had come so close, yet we end so far away.
But as Flames Coach Daryl Sutter hinted at last week, it seemed for most of the series, ever since Calgary took the series lead in game 1 there appeared to be moves afoot by the NHL head office in New York to undermine the Flames. Every road block was set up, and no stops were pulled to prevent a Canadian team from even having a sniff of the Stanley Cup. The referees were the machination of these roadblocks, trying to disadvantage the Flames in any way they could with questionable calls and penalties in Tampa's favour.
The Calgary Flames winning the Stanley Cup would mean lower ratings on the American Broadcasting Corporation's network. ABC would lose advertising revenue with low ratings (which they did anyway, because...well, it was Tampa Bay.) Who cares about the CBC's Hockey Night in Canada? They're just a bunch of small markets that deserve to be moved into the States anyway.
Well, Mr. Bettman, that is where you are wrong. The Flames played your game and won. They defied your road blocks, and calmly stormed through each of them. Even if they did not come away with the Stanley Cup this time, sooner or later one of the Canadian teams will break through and win it and bring it back to Canada. Our Flames are truly the champions. More often "the Flames (of Canada)" than "the Calgary Flames", they have made our city and our nation proud. There is no shame in losing this game. In fact, we may have won when we have lost. As a city, we have risen up. Let us do this again. One day we WILL be rewarded with the holy grail of hockey once again. The Red Mile and the Pengrowth Saddledome will become a sea of red once more.