The beauty of the underdog

I feel lucky to have spent the past few days immersed in hockey.
The Royal Bank Cup final (which the Aurora Tigers won 7-1 over Kindersley).
The Memorial Cup, where regionally I am rooting for the Gatineau Olympiques, formerly the Hull Olympiques (I predict a Kelowna-Gatineau final, by the way.)
The announcement of Team Canada’s World Cup roster, which I am not entirely comfortable with ( I’m sorry, but when was the last time Mario Lemieux wasn’t injured?), though let us trust in the Great Wayne.
Former hockey players turned politicians. I maintain after reading “The Game” that Ken Dryden is incredibly intelligent and I would trust him as my representation.
Finally, and most importantly, the Stanley Cup playoffs.
I cannot tell you who is leading the Flyers-Lightning series, not only because I am writing this before the next game is played but also because I don’t really care.
What I care about is “Go Flames go!”
I was excited when Calgary made it into the playoffs for the first time since 1996—and was ecstatic when they actually won a game. And now they are one win away from the final.
How did that happen?
I remember my disbelief when they scored in overtime in Game 7 against Vancouver. I may have screamed “No way” out loud in my apartment at 1 a.m.
That probably happened a lot around the country—maybe more when they beat Detroit in the second round.
There is just something so lovely about the Saddledome right now. I watch the people cheering in Calgary and I just want them to win. I know that feeling: being in the stands when you feel like your happiness rests on the shoulders of these men.
It’s a great feeling—one I’ll never forget.
Welcome to May 23, 1999. Almost five years ago now, though that’s hard to believe. It was the afternoon, around four o’clock I think, and the Ottawa 67’s and Calgary Hitmen were going into overtime.
During the intermission, my sister and I actually discussed how sad it was that they were going to lose. No way did they deserve to be in the final, they were only the hosts, and they hadn’t played a game for 35 days after losing out in the second round.
Then, just under two minutes in, Matt Zultek scored.
My memory of the actual goal has sort of combined with the TV replay, but I do know I saw the red light go on and I jumped out of my seat.
Suddenly there was such a huge mix of emotion in that building. One team was experiencing elation and the other was sitting on the ice, dejected.
In the crowd of 10,000 plus, some had been cheering for the Hitmen and now sat quietly in their seats or were headed out to the parking lot, while the rest of us cheered until we were hoarse.
Two years later, the 67’s won the OHL championship. I don’t remember the games as well, but I remember watching Seamus Kotyk, our goalie, after the game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone happier. I still have the pictures.
I would love to see Jarome Iginla that way.
Iginla, who accepted a smaller contract because he wanted to stay in Calgary, who has been playing there full-time since 1997, and who has never made the playoffs before.
Though he has won several gold medals for Canada while playing in various events, I almost think there are no guys in the NHL more deserving of a Stanley Cup ring right now.

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