Calgary, Alberta — The Stanley Cup final has visited numerous locales during the last 10 years, from regular stopovers in New Jersey and Detroit to a brief stay in, of all places, balmy North Carolina.
What had been missing was Canada -- the birthplace of hockey, the land where the sport is treasured, watched and debated 365 days a year, every year. In Canada, hockey is No. 1, and there really isn't a No. 2.
There certainly won't be one tonight when Calgary -- usually the least-watched of the country's six NHL teams -- plays host to Game 3 of a tied-up final against Tampa Bay.
It is the first Stanley Cup final on Canadian ice since Canucks-Rangers in 1994, and to say Canada has counted the days since would be an understatement.
"A Canadian team is playing for the Stanley Cup," defenseman Andrew Ference said. "That's all you need to know."
Coach Darryl Sutter was more concerned Friday with his players regaining their game legs following a 4-1 loss Thursday, the long flight home and the talk that Tampa Bay's superior stable of scorers is beginning to sway the series the Lightning's way.
But it is impossible for him to ignore the Go Flames banners that hang everywhere, the Flames flags that fly on every other car and the outpouring of support his team is receiving.