Flames’ 2004 Stanley Cup Run vs. #Riders 2013 #GreyCup Run

So this week marks the second time in my life that I’ve been living in a city that’s enjoying a run to the championship by a local professional sports team (the Blue Jays’ World Series victories in 1992 & 1993, though memorable, didn’t quite feel the same.)

In 2004, Shea and I were in Calgary when the Flames made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals where they lost in Game 7 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Now, nearly a decade later, we’re back in Regina for what feels more like a pre-destined trip to the Grey Cup for the Roughriders.

What’s Similar About Both Experiences?

  • Both featured the best loved local sports team overcoming the odds to make it to championship of their respective sports
  • Both have created a non-stop local party that’s seen the whole community rally behind their teams, whether they’re normally fans or not.
  • Both have activities centered around a local “Mile” – the Red Mile for Calgary and the Green Mile (which I believe was inspired by Calgary’s Red Mile) for Regina
  • I only got to one game in the Flames 2004 run and none of the finals as tickets were extremely hard to come by and/or being scalped for big bucks.  I won’t be at the Grey Cup Game either – partly for the same reasons and partly because I want to celebrate the big game with my family.

What’s Different About Both Experiences?

  • The Flames’ run was a two month build that started very slowly but grew as they won each of the three playoff series to get to the Finals and played 26 games in total over the four series.  The Riders’ playoff experience will encompass a grand total of three games over the course of three weeks.
  • I’m at a very different place in my life now.  Back then, young(er) and childless, Shea and I regularly went out to the Red Mile after games (we lived only a few blocks from the Red Mile which helped) and thought nothing of camping out at noon to reserve a spot in a bar for an evening game during the Stanley Cup finals.  Now, we have two kids, aged 6 and 6 months, so we’re a lot more tied down in terms of taking in the festivities.  Add to that the fact that I’m fighting a cold, Shea’s got a sore back and going out partying all night is the last thing on our minds (okay, I’m still thinking about it.  It’s just not likely to happen.)
  • Related to that, back then I worked in a Monday-Friday 9-5 job that had a great deal of flexibility in terms of my working hours which allowed me to, for example, slip out during the day to take in the celebration that was held for the Flames in Calgary’s Olympic Plaza after the Finals ended.  Now, I’ve recently moved to a branch head position which requires a bit of evening and weekend work.  I didn’t draw the short straw to have to work on Sunday at least but this week, I’m working Wednesday to Saturday and also worked tonight – all of which reduces my chances to take in some of the festivities as well.
  • The Flames run was in the late spring so weather was mostly cooperative.  The Riders’ Grey Cup week is happening during a brutal cold snap.
  • Technology like Facebook, Twitter, and so on makes it easy to feel like I’m a part of the Grey Cup celebrations even when I’m not there in person unlike 2003 when these services were either in their infancy or didn’t exist at all.
  • The Flames were huge underdogs with arguably only one superstar (Iginla) or maybe two (Kipprusoff).  The Riders have a number of outstanding players starting with Darian Durant, Kory Sheets, Weston Dressler and on through the team.
  • While everyone pretty much gets a Rider tattoo when they’re born in Saskatchewan (and I should do a whole different post about the downside of the conformity of Rider Nation), your hockey loyalties tend to be much more fluid since we have no team in the province.  Older fans tend to cheer for the Leafs or Habs, a lot of people in my generation cheer for the Oilers and a younger generation is all over the map – Penguins to Sharks to Lightning.  I was a big Islanders fan growing up since they were winning all the Cups when I started seriously following hockey in the early 1980’s.  As the team sucked and sucked more, I switched my main loyalty to the Flames – both because I’ve always had family connections there, because like the Islanders, they were big rivals with the Oilers, and obviously because we ended up living in Cowtown which moved them from “second favourite team” to “yeah, Flames are my favourites.”  My point is that I’ve been a lifelong Riders fan through all the joy and heartbreak whereas I’m a bit of a latecomer to Flames fandom.

Of course, the biggest unknown is whether the end result of the Riders’ 2013 season will be the same or different as the Flames in 2004?  Will the local team come within a hair of winning the championship only to fall short like the Flames did?  Or will the Riders pull it out in the end to cap an amazing storybook season that would see the CFL’s most popular team win the championship in their legendary home stadium one time before its demolished to make way for a new one?

We’ll find out in a few short days.

In the meantime, I’m going to make some time to sit in the family friendly Riderville I’ve created in my basement, pour Pace and I a root beer, and re-watch the Riders’ Western Final game with (coincidentally) Calgary to get myself even more pumped for Sunday! 😉

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