Wednesday, June 06, 2007
The Ducks Have Won the Cup!
The city of Ottawa painted itself red for the Stanley Cup finals. There was a fever that had not been felt in the city since the heydays of the Rough Riders in the Sixties---the days of Jackson, Stewart, Thelen, Schreider, Billy Joe Booth, and the genial Frank Clair. The city that Victoria chose as our capital had vaulted itself, perhaps unknowingly, into the twenty-first century.
But it is not the same city of the sixties. It has become a plethora of little cities, grouped around the core, and has experienced a dynamic population growth since that time. The National Capital concept now includes Nepean, Kanata, Orleans, Russell and dozens of other tiny burgs. The Senators draw fans in a larger blanket area, stretching to Smiths Falls, and Perth, Winchester, and Pembroke, and many fans from across the river in Quebec.
There are even fans that make the trek, many times a year, from the Quinte area---season ticket holders who have been there through the lean times of Alexandre Daigle and Alexei Yashin.
I cautioned one woman about wearing an Anaheim Ducks sweater in a public restaurant. I was lunching with our local Member of Parliament, Daryl Kramp, in the parliamentary cafeteria, when I spotted the Ducks fan beside me. She was also breaking bread with her Member of Parliament, Jim Abbott, from British Columbia. She politely informed us that that she was proud to wear the Ducks regalia, as she had two boys on that team---the Niedermayer brothers. She introduced me to Lisa, Scott’s wife. Humiliated, I agreed she had the right to wear the sweater.
Scotiabank Place was ready for a party. Every seat was adorned with a sparking red pom pom hours before the game. Souvenir stands sprung up in all nooks in the building. Alanis Morissette belted out the anthems in the almost empty cavern, checking the sound. Fans arrived at 3:00pm for the 8:00 o’clock start to get pumped for the game. One of Canada’s finest rock bands, Trooper, cranked out the tunes, as did a couple of other bands. Beer tents, media tents, peddlers, hawkers, scalpers---all the festive trimmings. Along with the rain. Constant, nagging, misty, moribund precipitation.
Daniel Alfredsson’s goal with less than a second left in the first period could have sunk the Ducks. But they rebounded in the second period, in a dominant fashion. They outshot the Sens, outscored them 2-1. In frustration, Aldredsson drilled a slapshot off Scott Niedermayer’s ankle, deliberately, as the clock wound down. In the category of: “I wish I hadn’t done that”. The Ducks used that as a “rallying cry” in the third period, trapped the Sens to death, skated home with the victory.
There was also a sense of winning one for the old guy. This concept has become popular in recent years, with teams winning the Cup for veterans who had previously played on horrible teams. Ray Bourque hoisted the silver in an Avalanche uniform. Rod Brind’amour did the same as a Carolina Hurricane. This Ducks team is rallying around Teemu Selanne, with good cause.
He has paid his dues. He began his NHL career with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992. He scored seventy-six goals in his first regular season, still a rookie record. He rejoined the Ducks midway through the 95-96 season. He is on many of the “Top Ten” lists for NHL players over the last fifteen years---points, assists, goals. Many times an all star, he was the first recipient of the Rocket Richard Trophy in 1999, given to the player who scores the most goals in the regular season. He is playing in his first Stanley Cup final.
Ducks’ Coach Carlyle made special note of this in post-game address to the media. “Teemu has completely revitalized his career this year. His passion for the game is an inspiration for his teammates. His pass to Dustin Penner on the game winning goal was a big time play.”
Carlyle was asked how he would celebrate his team’s victory, with one game remaining, potentially. “I will enjoy this for ten more minutes,” he smirked. “Then we will prepare for the next game.” He was not particularly worried about matching lines, with one exception. He tried, whenever possible, to get the pesky Samuel Pahlsson out against Jason Spezza. (I attempted to catch a quote from Paulsson after the game. He was surrounded by reporters, hanging on his every word. When I finally got close enough to hear, I was lost. It was all in Swedish!)
Ditto for the Selanne interview. Finnish is even tougher to decipher.
The crowd was quiet and sullen as they filed out of the rink in the misty rain. In their minds, they knew it might be the last time, the last chance to grab Lord Stanley’s hardware.
The last team to come back from a 3-1 deficit was the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942, when they defeated the Detroit Red Wings. There was a glimmer of hope for the Senators. But only slight. Twenty-eight teams have trailed 3-1 in the finals. Only the Leafs were victorious. But it was not to be for the Senators.
Wade Redden spoke quietly outside the Sens dressing room. He listed the obvious: “We have to fight to the end. We need to take it a step at a time. We need to do what we do well. We have to chip away at them.” He then looked up, more poignantly blurted: “We can’t do anything else”.
Both teams headed for the West Coast. They had entered Schwarzeneggerland. The land of glitz and glamour, the land of sun and surf, the land of the Beach Boys. And now, for the summer, Hockey Land, in the USA.
The Cup has been captured for the first time in history by a West Coast team. The Sharks and the Canucks watched the aftermath, with a little envy.
The time has come to hang up the blades for the summer, to air out that equipment. The Jays are closing on the Red Sox. The NBA Finals are in full swing. The Argos open their exhibition season this weekend.
The Ducks have won the Cup. It will sink in, eventually.
June 6, 2007